On September 11, 2001, terrorists crashed two hijacked planes into One and Two World Trade Center in New York City. Within hours both towers collapsed along with 7 World Trade Center. More than 2,200 civilians died along with 343 firefighters, 23 NYPD officers and 37 Port Authority police officers. Hundreds of thousands of people were exposed or potentially exposed to dust, particulates, and other environmental contaminants.
Approximately 70,000 people worked at Ground Zero and the Staten Island landfill in the days and weeks after September 11, 2001. The dust cloud and debris caused by the collapse of the World Trade Center created an unprecedented urban environmental disaster. The combustion of jet fuel created a dense plume of black smoke containing volatile organic compounds such as benzene, metals, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The collapse of the Twin Towers and 7 World Trade Center produced an enormous dust cloud – filled with pulverized cement, microscopic glass fibers and glass shards, asbestos, lead, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, hydrochloric acid, polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, organochlorine pesticides, furans, and dioxins. Fires burned both above and below ground until December of 2001, exposing thousands of workers to noxious chemicals. Rubble-removal operations repeatedly re-aerosolized the dust.
The most common short- and medium-term illnesses associated with WTC exposure have been respiratory and mental health conditions and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Longer-term health consequences are still being studied, but include an increase in cancer rates, PTSD, depression and increased substance use in adolescents.
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World Trade Center Health Program https://www.cdc.gov/wtc/index.html
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