Thirty employees from the Emergency Response Division and from the Fresh Kills Landfill Unit were awarded Unit Citations for their involvement in the nation’s largest cleanup and recovery effort in the wake of the World Trade Center tragedy.


The hazard symbol for toxic/highly toxic subst...

The hazard symbol for toxic/highly toxic substances according to directive 67/548/EWG by the European Chemicals Bureau. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A frank discussion on the toxicity of the air at Ground Zero and other crash sites on 9/11. Without any doubt toxins were present in many forms at all sites. Any firefighter or college chemistry student can tell you this.

Materials that form a structure, provide the infrastructure, furnish the structure or those brought into a structure can be a source of toxicity. Maintenance and cleaning chemicals can be toxic in quantity or if inappropriately mixed. Ammonia and bleach produce toxic gases when mixed.

Any component or furnishing in a building can be inherently safe until exposed to heat, chemicals, aerial agitation or mechanical destruction. PVC pipe, petroleum based furnishings and structural elements produce toxic substances such as Hydrochloric Acid, Hydrogen Sulfide, Cyanide and Carbon Monoxide (an asphyxiant) when exposed to heat. If asbestos is agitated into the air it is more easily inhaled increasing toxic exposure. Destroyed glass and concrete produce microscopic silicate particles that abrade your cell walls when inhaled or ingested. Toxics are in everything from the desk top computer to the water cooler. Many toxins may be produced. Just some common examples have been given.

Toxins enter the body through inhalation ( breathing), ingestion ( eating), absorption through skin and membranes or injection ( needle stick, bite, penetrating injury.)

Firefighter’s have known this for years. Look up the NYC Telephone Exchange Fire of 1975. Many cancers came from this fire. A main reason we wear breathing apparatus. The toxins and superheated air at fires, and we now know micro particles, in the smoke can be deadly at one exposure or cumulative exposures. We all knew this going in to Ground Zero. What was unexpected was the EPA’s nonchalant attitude and failure to recognize the magnitude of the exposure.

Other factors for toxicity include what the airplanes brought into the scenes. Jet Fuel, composites and adhesives, and exotic metals which can be burned or become particulate. What was in the cargo holds? Did the terrorists bring any toxins or biological agents on board?

Obviously, the impact of the planes brought in destructive forces to pulverize ( make into small particles) and agitate toxins and hazards into the air, fuel, and ignition sources for fire. Static , friction, or electrical spark, and heat from the engines. When the buildings involved collapsed that increased the spread of air born toxins.

A word about fire. Fire is a chemical reaction where heat breaks down and consumes particles from an object. Depending on what the object is composed off toxic compounds are either given off or made. Due to our modern materials fires burn hotter, faster than they used too and can release toxins more readily. Imagine there is a chemistry lab just above the flame. Compounds are made, destroyed, or turned into other compounds over and over again. The smoke is two things: 1) a toxic soup 2) and a ready source of ignitable or explosive fuel. 

A large fire will create it’s own air currents drawing in Oxygen and pushing out and up heat, smoke, and toxins. TYSteve@erddsny@facebook


World Trade Center Health Program; Amendments to List of WTC-Related Health Conditions; Cancer; Revision

3 World Trade Center Programs Explained

Emergency Response Division DSNY

September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF)

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