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Background Attack Aftermath Evidence Misinformation Analysis Memorial

Lower Manhattan

Attack Targeted a City

Dust cloud engulfs Lower Manhattan
Lower Manhattan was engulfed by the vast dust clouds that followed the collapses of the Twin Towers. See photographs of the dust clouds. The dust clouds contained a complex brew of toxins, including high concentrations of asbestos.

While the Twin Towers were the focal point of the 9/11/01 attack on New York City, the immediate effects of the attack spread out over Lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn, and affected hundreds of thousands of people. This is because the destruction of the Twin Towers distributed pulverized and vaporized remains of the buildings over a wide area, and the rubble pile smouldered for months.

The destruction of the towers, while usually called "collapses," are more accurately characterized as explosions, because each tower was consumed by a descending cloud of rubble growing in all directions at about 30 to 50 feet per second. The lateral expansion of the mushrooming rubble clouds was so great that they were nearly one thousand feet in diameter by the time they reached the ground. After each tower had vanished, its dust cloud continued to grow. Jim Hoffman has estimated that the volume of the North Tower's cloud had grown to five times the volume of the tower by 30 seconds after the start of its collapse. Photographs show a thick dust cloud over 300 feet high engulfing a large portion of Lower Manhattan, and spilling out into the Hudson River.

The extent and severity of toxic exposure to people in areas surrounding the World Trade Center is the subject of great uncertainly, due in part to obstructionism by officials responsible for public health. The best guess, however, is that far more people will ultimately die from the exposures than died in the attack itself. That was the conclusion of Geoffrey Lean, a writer for the Independent, based on a 2004 report by the Government Accounting Office. The report estimates that up to 400,000 people were exposed to toxic pollution emanating from Ground Zero.

9/11 pollution 'could cause more deaths than attack'

By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor

12 September 2004

Up to 400,000 New Yorkers breathed in the most toxic polluting cloud ever recorded after the twin towers were brought down three years ago, but no proper effort has been made to find out how their health has been affected, according to an official report.

The US government study provides the latest evidence of a systematic cover-up of the health toll from pollution after the 9/11 disaster, which doctors fear will cause more deaths than the attacks themselves.

The Bush administration suppressed evidence of increasing danger and officially announced that the air around the felled buildings was "safe to breathe". Another report reveals that it has since failed at least a dozen times to correct its assurances, even when it became clear that people were becoming sick.

The official report - sent to Congress last week by the US Government Accountability Office - says that between 250,000 and 400,000 people in lower Manhattan were exposed to the pollution on 11 September 2001. But it shows that the government has yet to make a comprehensive effort to study the effects on their health.

And it reveals that there is no systematic effort to adequately monitor the well-being of those affected, give them physical examinations or provide treatment.

Scientific studies have shown that the cloud of pulverized debris from the skyscrapers was uniquely dangerous. The US government's own figures show that it contained the highest levels of deadly dioxins ever recorded - about 1,500 times normal levels. Unprecedented levels of acids, sulphur, fine particles, heavy metals and other dangerous materials were also measured.

Asbestos was found at 27 times acceptable levels, and scientists found about 400 organic alkanes, phthalates and polyaromatic hydrocarbons - many suspected of causing cancer and other long-term diseases.

The site at Ground Zero went on smouldering, becoming what scientists describe as a "chemical factory", creating new dangerous substances.



1. 9/11 pollution 'could cause more deaths than attack', 9/12/04

page last modified: 2010-05-17