Addressing environmental health issues
LUZ CLAUDIO, ANJALI GARG, AND PHILIP J. LANDRIGAN
The environmental aspects of the World Trade Center (WTC) disaster were extraordinary. Over a million tons of steel, dust, cement, asbestos, and other debris fell to the ground. The enormous heat (up to 2000° F) from the fires and explosions transformed many materials, such as computers, carpeting, furniture, and air conditioning fluid, in the WTC into a gaseous cloud of potentially toxic dust, which took weeks to dissipate1(Figure 4–1).
The six-story-high pile of compacted rubble that resulted from the fires and collapse of the WTC towers became known as the Pile, or Ground Zero. During the first days after September 11, immediate physical dangers were everywhere. Buildings adjacent to the towers collapsed or suffered major damage. Intense fires continued to burn, and a massive cloud of dust and smoke spread with the prevailing winds for miles from the site. For several months after the attack, nearby communities experienced the smell of acrid smoke from the long-burning fires. All of this devastation occurred in the middle of an intensely populated urban center.
Lower Manhattan encompasses not only a vibrant working community, but also a significant residential neighborhood. Nearly 20,000 people live within one-half-mile of Ground Zero; almost 3, 000 of them are children.2When the WTC was destroyed, the communities of lower Manhattan were enveloped in smoke and soot. All residents were placed at risk of exposure to poten-