The Environmental Impact of 9/11 on Human Health
In addition to the horrific cost to human life, 9/11 has had a devastating environmental impact that continues to harm human health. The felling of the twin towers in Manhattan on September 11th 2001, killed thousands of people, and the toll on human life continues to be felt ten years after the tragic event. First responders, those charged with cleaning up the carnage, and others who spent time on or near the 9/11 site continue to suffer from serious health effects.
Health effects from the dust and debris of 9/11 range from “trade center cough” to terminal cancer. Many continue to suffer from persistent respiratory illnesses. The health effects were not limited to Manhattan, toxic environmental exposures were also reported at the Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island where trade center debris was moved, and at the city morgue.
When the Twin Towers were destroyed they created an environmental nightmare. The toxic soup included dust laced with asbestos, glass fibers, pulverized cement and other substances. The dust from the collapsed towers was “wildly toxic”, according to air pollution expert and University of California Davis Professor Emeritus Thomas Cahill. The thousands of tons of toxic debris resulting from the collapse of the Twin Towers consisted of more than 2,500 contaminants. This includes 50% non-fibrous material and construction debris; 40% glass and other fibers; 9.2% cellulose; and 0.8% of the extremely toxic carcinogen asbestos, as well as detectable amounts of lead, and mercury. There were also unprecedented levels of dioxin and PAHs from the fires which burned for three months. Many of the dispersed substances (asbestos, crystalline silica, lead, cadmium, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) are carcinogenic; other substances can trigger kidney, heart, liver and nervous system deterioration.
An April 2006 autopsy report of a retired New York City detective drew a clear connection to 9/11. “It is felt with a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the cause of death in this case was directly related to the 9/11 incident,” stated the report from the medical examiner’s office in Ocean County, N.J.
This was the first official link made by a medical expert between the hazardous air at ground zero after the trade center collapse and the death of someone who worked in the rescue effort.
In 2006, David Worby, an attorney representing more than 5,000 plaintiffs suing those who supervised the cleanup over their illnesses, said 21 of his clients had already died of September 11-related diseases since mid-2004.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Worby said. “Many, many more people are going to die from the aftermath of the toxicity.”
The environmental damage of 911 did not end with the death of 2973 people, it continues to compromise the health of people to this day.
Richard Matthews is a consultant, sustainable investor, writer and owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business blog that covers the convergence of sustainable capitalism and the global environment.The Green Market is one of the most comprehensive resources for information and tools on sustainability. Follow The Green Market's twitter feed and see the Facebook Fan Page. Richard is a contributor to more than 50 publications. Find him on Facebook and Linkedin.
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