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Environmental Health Perspectives Volume 110, Number 7, July 2002
Characterization of the Dust/Smoke Aerosol that Settled East of the World Trade Center (WTC) in Lower Manhattan after the Collapse of the WTC 11 September 2001

Paul J. Lioy,1,2 Clifford P. Weisel,1,2 James R. Millette,3 Steven Eisenreich,1,4 Daniel Vallero,5 John Offenberg,4 Brian Buckley,1 Barbara Turpin,1,4 Mianhua Zhong,6 Mitchell D. Cohen,6 Colette Prophete,6 Ill Yang,1 Robert Stiles,1 Glen Chee,6 Willie Johnson,1 Robert Porcja,1,4 Shahnaz Alimokhtari,1 Robert C. Hale,7 Charles Weschler,1 and Lung Chi Chen6

1Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute of New Jersey, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA; 2Department of Environmental and Community Medicine, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA; 3MVA, Norcross, Georgia; 4Department of Environmental Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA; 5National Exposure Research Laboratory, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA; 6Nelson Institute of Environmental Medicine, NYU School of Medicine, New York, New York, USA; 7Department of Environmental Sciences, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary, Gloucester, Virginia, USA


The explosion and collapse of the World Trade Center (WTC) was a catastrophic event that produced an aerosol plume impacting many workers, residents, and commuters during the first few days after 11 September 2001. Three bulk samples of the total settled dust and smoke were collected at weather-protected locations east of the WTC on 16 and 17 September 2001; these samples are representative of the generated material that settled immediately after the explosion and fire and the concurrent collapse of the two structures. We analyzed each sample, not differentiated by particle size, for inorganic and organic composition. In the inorganic analyses, we identified metals, radionuclides, ionic species, asbestos, and inorganic species. In the organic analyses, we identified polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls, polychlorinated dibenzodioxins, polychlorinated dibenzofurans, pesticides, phthalate esters, brominated diphenyl ethers, and other hydrocarbons. Each sample had a basic pH. Asbestos levels ranged from 0.8% to 3.0% of the mass, the PAHs were > 0.1% of the mass, and lead ranged from 101 to 625 g/g. The content and distribution of material was indicative of a complex mixture of building debris and combustion products in the resulting plume. These three samples were composed primarily of construction materials, soot, paint (leaded and unleaded), and glass fibers (mineral wool and fiberglass). Levels of hydrocarbons indicated unburned or partially burned jet fuel, plastic, cellulose, and other materials that were ignited by the fire. In morphologic analyses we found that a majority of the mass was fibrous and composed of many types of fibers (e.g., mineral wool, fiberglass, asbestos, wood, paper, and cotton). The particles were separated into size classifications by gravimetric and aerodynamic methods. Material < 2.5 m in aerodynamic diameter was 0.88-1.98% of the total mass. The largest mass concentrations were > 53 m in diameter. The results obtained from these samples can be used to understand the contact and types of exposures to this unprecedented complex mixture experienced by the surviving residents, commuters, and rescue workers directly affected by the plume from 11 to 12 September and the evaluations of any acute or long-term health effects from resuspendable dust and smoke to the residents, commuters, and local workers, as well as from the materials released after 11 September until the fires were extinguished. Further, these results support the need to have the interior of residences, buildings, and their respective HVAC systems professionally cleaned to reduce long-term residential risks before rehabitation. Key words: aerosol, inorganic components, morphologic characterization, organic components, World Trade Center. Environ Health Perspect 110:703-714 (2002). [Online 4 June 2002]

http://ehpnet1.niehs.nih.gov/docs/2002/110p703-714lioy/ abstract.html

Address correspondence to P.J. Lioy, Exposure Measurement and Assessment Division, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, 170 Frelinghuysen Road, Piscataway, NJ 08854-8020 USA. Telephone: (732) 445 0150. Fax: (732) 445 0116. E-mail: plioy@eohsi.rutgers.edu

We thank D. Bates and his analytic team in the U.S. EPA's Kansas City Regional Laboratory for their analysis of the dust for dioxins and furans. We also thank C. Schopfer of the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute (EOHSI) for completion of the radionuclide analyses; R. Harrington for analytic support, and M.J. La Guardia of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science for technical assistance. We extend our gratitude to D. Owuor for assistance in the preparation of this manuscript. Finally, we express our deepest sympathy and continuing concern for the families of the victims, and survivors of 11 September 2001.

This work was funded in part by supplemental funds from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to the NIEHS Centers at EOHSI (ES05022-12) and the NYU Institute of Medicine (ES00260). NYU is also funded in part by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) PM Center Grant (R827351). P.J. Lioy was also supported in part by a U.S. EPA University Partnership (CR827033).

This work has been subjected to agency review and approved for publication. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement or recommendations for use.

Received 15 January 2002; accepted 8 April 2002.

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