October 24, 2006

"A whirling dust plume filled with asbestos, benzene, dioxin and other hazards."

The dust from the falling World Trade Center towers: What damage did it inflict?


Dave said...

When 9/11 happened I lived in an apartment building two blocks south of the WTC, on Greenwich St. Between my apartment building and the WTC was the old Deutsche Bank Building, which building bore the brunt of the falling debris.

When I was finally allowed back into my building, on, as I recall, September 23, 2001 (having gone through a dozen or so security check points) there was a fine patina of dust on everything.

However. The windows were closed.

Which suggests to me a couple of things: (1) the density and volume of dust in the immediate proximity to the WTC must have been, at least in the days immediately following the event much more significant than most of us realize, and (2) if the dust infiltrated my apartment despite my windows having been closed, then it must have been very fine dust, all the better to get lodged deep within rescue workers' lungs.

On another note, the apartment I lived in at the time had a "terrace" (by which I mean a ledge, 18 inches wide, that the building's marketing materials referred to as a terrace). It had a pile of dust, 18 inches thick or so, on top of which pile lay a number of singed pieces of papers that looked like tax returns. I never did figure out what happened to the person for whom those tax returns were prepared.

Dave said...

I should also mention that the NYC Department of Health has, to this day, been bugging me to fill out some form delineating the deleterious health effects of having lived in the proximity of the Towers.

Being unable to identify any such deleterious effects I have ignored all such entreaties.

John said...

(AP) They dug in the toxic World Trade Center dust for survivors, and later for the dead. Their feet were burned by white-hot debris. But unlike thousands of others who toiled at ground zero after Sept. 11, these rescue workers aren't sick.

Scientists have spent years studying the health of search-and-rescue dogs that nosed through the debris at ground zero — and to their surprise, they have found no sign of major illness in the animals.


I guess the dogs did not watch the evening news

PatCA said...

These things are always overstated...or understated. Chernobyl is a good example--the cancers have been successful treated, and the flora and fauna is regenerating.

It must be a human failing that we spend so much time and energy going after false enemies (the neglectful agencies!) instead of concentrating on the real one. It makes life less scary, I guess.

Harry Eagar said...

Dioxin isn't a hazard, so no need to worry about that.

Christy said...

Stress manifests in many very real ways. Are we really surprised that it made some people more vulnerable to the particulate matter in the air?

My distress comes at the hysterical hyping of problems by the under-informed press. They promote 1% possibilities into probabilities and scare people into real consequences.

HaloJonesFan said...

No doubt they'll hunt down the people who built the buildings thirty years ago and sue their asses off for using materials that were horribly toxic when crushed by collapsing buildings. How dare they use a material that posed such a clear threat to the public!

As a side note, the VA thinks it's identified the actual Gulf War Syndrome--it's the same tropical crud that afflicts all white men who travel to dirty places, but Greenpeace has gotten everyone so paranoid about THE DEADLY POWER OF THE ATOM that people thought it was something else.

HaloJonesFan said...

harry eagar: People always knew that dioxin was hazardous. It's just that nobody ever expected people to DRINK IT.

Sigivald said...

Halo: As I understand it, some dioxins (the family is fairly large) are, as near as can be established, harmless in humans, or so mildly harmful as to be not worthy of notice.

Some others are significantly toxic, but none of them seem to be as bad as the worst of the hype about them suggested.

The only significant effect of acute exposure appears to be chloracne.

(Some dioxins (PDF) do appear to increase cancer rates, but the numbers on how much of an increase are difficult to find, described as "generally low", and overall a relative risk of 1.4 after heavy industrial-accident-level exposure.

Nothing to lose sleep over unless you live next to a particularly lax dioxin plant ... and none of those exist in the first world anymore.

And no worry at all on the dioxin front for WTC responders and cleanup workers.)

JorgXMcKie said...

Since most large doses of dioxin in the US came from combining 2,4D with 2,4,5T (both herbicides) and these were EXTREMELY commonly used by just about every farmer in the US between the early 1950s and the late 1860s/early 1970s, ordinarily with no protection whatsoever, it would seem that any deleterious effects would show up among farmers.

I have seen zero evidence that this is the case.

Personally, I don't think that anything with 'cide' in its descriptives is something to use casually, but the dioxin thing is waaaaay overblown.

For instance, the last time I looked, the Viet Vets with the most 'symptoms' of dioxin exposure were shipboard sailors who never got within 5 miles of the coast and were never exposed directly to dioxin at all.

Crappy epidemiology is not limited to Lancet reports of Iraqi deaths.