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ATSDR could not determine the cause of the incident where sanitation workers were overcome by unknown gases or vapors on May 7, 1998 at the Fresh Kills landfill. Worker breathing zone air samples for gaseous contaminants were not collected during the incident. Breathing zone air sampling data are necessary to identify the air contaminant(s) responsible and form a valid conclusion regarding the cause of the incident. ATSDR attempted but was not able to access pertinent supplementary information such as emergency room records and medical histories of the affected workers, which may have assisted in assessing the nature of the incident. ATSDR considers this incident to be of health concern primarily to sanitation workers and contractors.



In order identify hazardous work conditions and possibly prevent similar incidents from occurring the Deparment of Sanitation should take measures to characterize worker exposure. The Department of Sanitation should consider the following:

  • implementing the use of a multi-sensor gas monitoring instrument capable of assessing short-term exposure to ammonia, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen sulfide. Representative monitoring should be conducted for each job classification during routine landfill operations.
  • maintaining air sampling equipment (e.g., evacuated canister) to collect samples for toxic gases. This equipment should be readily available to designated Fresh Kills employees for rapid sample collection, and designated employees should be trained in the sample collection methods and emergency response

ATSDR will consider any additional data provided to the agency and revise this health consultation as appropriate. If additional information becomes available or if there are any questions or comments concerning this document, please contact ATSDR at (800)-447-1544 or by writing to:

1600 Clifton Rd. - MS: E-56
Atlanta, GA 30333

Whether contacting ATSDR by telephone or in writing, the requestor should state that the inquiry is in regard to the Fresh Kills landfill site.

The Department of Sanitation or its employees may also petition the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for a Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) of the Fresh Kills landfill workplace. The NIOSH HHE Program may be contacted at:

NIOSH, Hazard Evaluation and Technical Assistance Branch
4676 Columbia Parkway, R-9
Cincinnati, Ohio 45226
(513)841-4382 FAX: (513)841-4488



Douglas Gouzie, PhD
Environmental Health Scientist

Peter J. Kowalski, CIH
Certified Industrial Hygienist



  1. US Representative Vito Fossella. Petition Letter to ATSDR, May 13, 1998.

  2. Gould, Charlie. 19 Stricken by Landfill Fumes. Staten Island Advance. May 8, 1998.

  3. ATSDR. Health Consultation, Air Monitoring Data, Staten Island, New York. May 14, 1993.

  4. ATSDR. Health Consultation, Air Monitoring Data, Staten Island, New York. March 15, 1996.

  5. ATSDR. Health Consultation on Air Monitoring Data, Staten Island, New York. January 20, 1998.

  6. USEPA Region 2. Determination of Landfill Gas Composition and Pollutant Emission Rates at Fresh Kills Landfill. Radian Corporation. EPA 902-R-95-0016. November 1995.

  7. New York State Department of Health. New York City Department of Sanitation Employees Health Study Summary. October 1996.

  8. New York City Department of Health. Staten Island Cancer Incidence Study. March 1996.

  9. New York State Department of Labor, Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau.Investigation Narrative, Investigation #360258354, NYCDOS-Fresh Kills Plant 2.Wayne Murray, Inspector, August 31, 1998.

  10. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. National Climatic Data Center, New Jersey, Station 14734 (EWR), hourly data for May 7, 1998.

  11. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Memo from Paul Gallay dated May 21, 1998.

  12. Schweisfurth, H., Schottes, C. Acute Intoxication of a Hydrazine-like gas by 19 workers in a Garbage Dump, Zentralbl Hygiene Umweltmed, 195(III): 46-54. 1993.

  13. Kahn, G., Orris, P., Weeks, J. Acute Overexposure to Diesel Exhaust: Report of 13 Cases. Am. J. of Ind. Med. 13(3):405-406. 1988.

  14. NIOSH. Health Hazard Evaluation Report: Rumpke, Inc. Landfill Colerain Township, Ohio. Cincinnati, Ohio: US Department of Health and Human Service, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH Report No. HETA 96-0109-2616. 1996.

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