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Sunday, 19 June 2011

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Air as Thick as Pea Soup - What was in the Dust?

The potential danger of asbestos in the Twin Towers post 9/11

It’s just over nine years since the terrorist attacks, and subsequent collapse, of the Twin Towers in New York, and controversy still shrouds the event. The World Trade Centre towers had significant amounts of fireproofing built into the beams of the ceilings, roofs, walls and floors, all of which, allegedly, contained asbestos. In the centre of each tower was a steel, and concrete, core tower, that housed the lift shafts and stairwells, and the steel was completely covered in concrete. Although it was back in the 1960s when asbestos was identified as a deadly substance, the towers were already half-built (up to 40 floors) before the ban on using asbestos in concrete building material, or the strict guidelines, were enforced. The World Trade Centre Towers were opened in 1973, after being completed using safer materials from the 64th floor up. 

Reports say that some of the asbestos originally used, was removed later on, but this hasn’t been confirmed in any reports.

Everyone remembers, with horror, the TV images of the streets of New York being engulfed in thick grey dust. It was a frightening image. During the rescue and clean-up operation, following the collapse of the towers, it’s also very worrying to wonder whether the massive amount of dust that blanketed the streets, and the spectators, contained some form of asbestos dust. Statements from the first rescuers said, the air was as thick as pea soup, with smoke, and dust. Tests of the contaminated air weren’t taken until a week after the attacks and although 97 air samples were taken in and around Manhattan, officials reported that they did not show high levels of the toxic dust. 

Rescue workers within the wreckage of the towers were given respiratory masks to wear, but it’s an unknown quantity, whether, in the years to come, more and more reports of illnesses are likely to surface relating to asbestos-related disease, and the devastation of the World Trade Centre. The sheer scale of the disaster still rocks in all our memories, but the legacy from that tragic day might linger on in the lungs of the folk who lived in the area, and worked in the two towers. 

Many people have been unknowingly exposed to asbestos dust during the course of their working life, including fire fighters, nurses, and construction workers. If you suspect you may be one of them, give us a call now for advice on how to proceed. Telephone Simpson Millar today, for an informal chat, on 0800 634 1626.

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