9/11 Air Particulates

On September 11, 2001, terrorists crashed two hijacked planes into One and Two World Trade Center in New York City.  Within hours both towers collapsed along with 7 World Trade Center.  More than 2,200 civilians died along with 343 firefighters, 23 NYPD officers and 37 Port Authority police officers.  Hundreds of thousands of people were exposed or potentially exposed to dust, particulates, and other environmental contaminants.

Approximately 70,000 people worked at Ground Zero and the Staten Island landfill in the days and weeks after September 11, 2001.  The dust cloud and debris caused by the collapse of the World Trade Center created an unprecedented urban environmental disaster. The combustion of jet fuel created a dense plume of black smoke containing volatile organic compounds such as benzene, metals, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The collapse of the Twin Towers and 7 World Trade Center produced an enormous dust cloud – filled with pulverized cement, microscopic glass fibers and glass shards, asbestos, lead, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, hydrochloric acid, polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, organochlorine pesticides, furans, and dioxins.  Fires burned both above and below ground until December of 2001, exposing thousands of workers to noxious chemicals. Rubble-removal operations repeatedly re-aerosolized the dust.

Health Impacts

The most common short- and medium-term illnesses associated with WTC exposure have been respiratory and mental health conditions and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).  Longer-term health consequences are still being studied, but include an increase in cancer rates, PTSD, depression and increased substance use in adolescents.   


Try out the interactive toolkit. The toolkit can be remixed through thinglink so that it meets your needs. Please make your remix free and available to all. To make it easy for people that want to remix here is the link to the google doc for the Air Particulates toolkit with all the links.


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Maslow, C. B., Caramanica, K., Li, J., Stellman, S. D., & Brackbill, R. M. (2016). Reproductive Outcomes Following Maternal Exposure to the Events of September 11, 2001, at the World Trade Center, in New York City. American journal of public health106(10), 1796-1803.

Newsweek (2016) U.S. 9/11’S SECOND WAVE: CANCER AND OTHER DISEASES LINKED TO THE 2001 ATTACKS ARE SURGING http://www.newsweek.com/2016/09/16/9-11-death-toll-rising-496214.html

New York City 9/11 Health http://www1.nyc.gov/site/911health/researchers/what-we-know.page

Vossbrinck, M., Zeig-Owens, R., Hall, C. B., Schwartz, T., Moir, W., Webber, M. P., … & Kelly, K. J. (2017). Post-9/11/2001 lung function trajectories by sex and race in World Trade Center-exposed New York City emergency medical service workers. Occup Environ Med74(3), 200-203.

World Trade Center Health Program https://www.cdc.gov/wtc/index.html

By: Tener Veenema, Jennifer Martin, Daniel Barnett, and Roberta Lavin

For more information contact Roberta Lavin lavinr@umsl.edu

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Li

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