Chapter 19: The World Trade Centre Disaster
Published:16 Oct 2015
M. Kendall, M. Cohen, and L. Chen, in Toxicology, Survival and Health Hazards of Combustion Products, ed. D. A. Purser, R. L. Maynard, and J. C. Wakefield, The Royal Society of Chemistry, 2015, ch. 19, pp. 574-601.
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The Twin Towers disaster followed the terrorist attack of 9th September 2001 on New York City's (NYC) World Trade Center (WTC). This man-made environmental disaster, known as 9/11, was caused by two airplanes being flown intentionally into two towers of the WTC and resulted in destruction and debris across a wide urban area of Lower Manhattan, NYC. In the immediate aftermath, during months of continuous fire and subsequent clean-up, there were recorded human exposures to WTC dust and smoke. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of NYC residents and workers, plus incoming responders to the incident, were exposed to some level of WTC contamination. While the disaster initiated a rapid military response to secure the area, the non-military, post-disaster management continued for years. Defining the occupational and environmental health consequences of this disaster is still a work in progress, as data collection on health effects continues into a second decade. In this chapter we limit our focus and review to the WTC dust release from Ground Zero (where the WTC buildings had previously stood) in the NYC environs only. We then summarise the latest findings of ongoing studies linking WTC dust and smoke exposures to specific health consequences. We summarise the events as they unfolded, and describe some of the key lessons that were learned during the disaster.