The World Trade Center and Asbestos Exposure Claims

On September 11, 2001 The World Trade Center (“WTC”) Towers in New York City were attacked by terrorists. Years after these attacks, health threats now loom for both first responders and people who lived or worked nearby the Ground-Zero site. This is because the destruction of the Towers caused what environmental and medical experts believe was New York City’s worst and biggest environmental disaster in history. Only four towers remained following the attack, and three of these were demolished because they were too damaged to salvage. Both the initial destruction of the towers by the attacks, and subsequent demolition of the remaining towers resulted in extremely toxic substances, including asbestos, being released into the air. Though mesothelioma and other asbestos related diseases take years to arise, the risk for asbestos exposure related illnesses is still extremely high. In fact recently, an EMT who worked at the Ground Zero site has already been diagnosed with mesothelioma.

The Causes of Asbestos Exposure at the WTC

Following the terrorist attacks, thick clouds of smoke migrated through the air towards the nearby Brooklyn borough. Many people reported that the air was extremely thick with a soup-like consistency. A white-grey dust covered cars and other objects on the street. This toxic soup is believed to be the result of the release into the surrounding environment of around 2,500 separate and possible hazardous fibers, materials and particles. These released hazardous substances included lead, mercury, pulverized concrete, PCB’s and dioxins. Most importantly, potentially over 400 tons of asbestos containing fibers were released into the atmosphere via the subsequent fires, smoke plume and the collapsed towers.


The large amount of asbestos contained within the Towers was the result of the steel structures being sprayed with a half-inch of asbestos layer coating. This spray coating was only used up to the tower’s 40th floors; the rest of the towers were sprayed with a non-asbestos containing spray. However, it has been suggested that a significant portion of these asbestos fibers were removed from elevators and other areas prior to 9/11.

Those Most At Risk Due to Asbestos Exposure at the WTC

Asbestos fibers in the air as a result of the attack could have resulted in these fibers entering the body through inhalation of smoke and the general air in the region following the attacks. Asbestos exposure could have also occurred during the handling and removal of debris containing asbestos fibers. Diseases such as mesothelioma and lung cancer occur when these fibers are inhaled and travel to the lung region or further throughout the body resulting in tumors, lung damage and other complications. There are specific groups of people who would be especially at risk for asbestos exposure-related illnesses because of their presence at or around Ground-Zero.

First responders are the most at risk category, which includes those 4,000 emergency healthcare providers, firefighters and police officers who immediately arrived at the Towers following the attacks. Even after the initial attack, firefighters worked at Ground-Zero for months in order to contain the environmental threats that were presented. Though these firefighters were wearing face masks and other inhalation protectants, they were still working for long periods of time at an extremely toxic site, and thus they are now vulnerable to mesothelioma and other serious asbestos exposure illnesses. In fact it is estimated that around 70% of first responders have already exhibited serious exposure-related illnesses.

The Ground-Zero clean-up crews are another category of individuals that may have been exposed to high-levels of asbestos fibers in the air. In the months following the attack extensive work was conducted to clean up the aftermath of the demolished towers. Typical work involved the use of trucks to transport the waste to various disposal facilities. Many of these clean up crews were not outfitted with respirators and other protective devices.

Local employees and residents of the region surrounding the Ground-Zero attacks are also a category that is at risk for asbestos exposure-related illnesses. This includes those who worked, attended school or conducted business nearby the site and the surrounding at-risk region, which stretches as far as Brooklyn. Though these people would not have handled actual materials that contained asbestos, they would have definitely been breathing the air in the region for months after the attack occurred. Though the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) reported that the air was safe, local businesses hired independent contractors to test the air. These tests confirmed suspicions that the air contained extremely elevated levels of asbestos fibers.
Concerned that you may be suffering from a lung condition due to past asbestos exposure? Contact an asbestos exposure attorney today.


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