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What Were the Toxic Substances in the 9/11 World Trade Center Dust?

If there is a single image of what happened on September 11, 2001 in New York City, it is the still-standing World Trade Center (WTC) towers burning with a trail of smoke pouring out of what had to be unimaginable horror inside.

But a full dozen years after the towers fell, the dust cloud from the collapse still lingers in a sense. An estimated 400,000 people were exposed on some level to that dust, and today many people are or might be affected by what was there. As of 2013, at least 1,140 individuals have been diagnosed with cancer stemming from exposure to this dust cloud.

Most prominently discussed was the presence of asbestos in the building, which when inhaled can have an incubation period of as long as 50 years, although the first person to die of a lung disease tied to WTC dust was mere months later, in February 2002.

According to Dave Newman, an industrial hygienist and an official with the New York Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, the dust cloud was “a complex mix of hundreds — and possibly thousands — of chemical substances … the majority of which we don’t have any idea what it was.”

But New Jersey-based International Asbestos Testing Labs ran dust samples from in and around Ground Zero. Their findings of very fine particulates included the following:

  • Non-fibrous material: Polystyrene foam, carbon soot, vermiculite mineral, gypsum, quartz and dolomite
  • Fibrous material: Cellulose (wood and paper), glass wool, fiberglass, mineral wool, ceramic fibers, limestone, chromium, aluminum and chrysotile asbestos
  • Metals: Lead, chromium, zinc and cadmium

Almost all health experts indicate that respiratory illnesses, including cancers, are likely to increase as time goes on. By the rules of the WTC victims and volunteer compensation funds, individuals with 9/11 injuries and illnesses need to file claims for compensation within two years of a diagnosis. Speak with a 9/11 injury attorney as soon as possible to learn what might be done to mitigate the costs of your injury.

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