World Trade Center

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There is no shortage of information on the collapse of the World Trade Center as it relates to asbestos exposure; entering those key words on any Internet search engine will return over 1.6 million results. That much of lower Manhattan was covered in asbestos dust on 11 September 2001 and continues to be a problem to this day is well-known.

The magnitude and level of exposure become apparent when one realizes that perhaps 70% of the 4,000 “first responders” – police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians – have developed disabling respiratory problems as a result of that day. Mesothelioma, a rare form of asbestos cancer, normally takes anywhere from 20 to 40 years to develop, yet one paramedic who was on the scene is known to have contracted and died of the disease after less than five years.

What is less well known is that concerns about asbestos had been expressed almost forty years ago as the Twin Towers were being constructed.


Aside from other issues, the collapse of the World Trade Center towers produced a very toxic Ground Zero. Overall, some 400,000 metric tons of asbestos was released into the air, eventually to rain down on Manhattan in the ensuing days. This was recently demonstrated by the “toxic shirt” worn by an Orthodox Jewish community liaison on 11 September 2001; after five-and-a-half years, lab analysis of the shirt showed a concentration of asbestos 93,000 times that of a normal garment.

What to Do

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) recommends that Manhattan residents continue to clean their dwellings with HEPA vacuums and damp cloths or mops in order to reduce the risk of further exposure, and participate in the EPA cleaning/sampling program.

Those who worked at Ground Zero who have symptoms of respiratory or pulmonary disease should contact a qualified attorney to learn what legal remedies may be available to them.