WTC Health Effects and Exposures

The collapse of the World Trade Center towers resulted in a large dust plume that engulfed all of lower Manhattan and sections of downtown Brooklyn. After the collapse of the building, fires continued to burn at the WTC site and were not completely extinguished until December 2001.

The dust cloud was a complex mixture of different chemicals primarily composed of large, coarse particles that were highly alkaline, with a pH between 9.0 – 11.0. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified 287 different chemicals in the dust, including:

Pulverized building materials and building contents: Combustion products from jet fuel and gasonline:
Concrete Soot
Cement Heavy metals
Fiberglass Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
Asbestos Hydrochloric acid
Silica Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
Organochlorine pesticides Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
Heavy metals

Fire fighters who responded to the WTC attack are usually separated into two different exposure groups:
  1. Fire fighters who arrived at the scene the morning of 9/11 were caught in the dust cloud resulting from the building collapses had short term exposures to very high concentrations of dust.

  2. Fire fighters who arrived after the building collapses and worked at the recovery site had chronic, long-term exposures to dust and vehicle exhaust from construction equipment.

Fire fighters and other rescue and recovery workers who worked at the WTC site continue to experience health effects as a result of their exposures. Respiratory health conditions including asthma, chronic cough, gastrointestinal reflux, and sinus problems are commonly reported among WTC fire fighters and other recovery workers. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety are common mental health effects among fire fighters and other workers who responded to the 9/11 attacks. Click here for the full list of federal recognized WTC-related health conditions. For a list of published scientific articles and reports on WTC health issues, click here.