Assessment of Inhalation Exposures and Potential Health Risks to the General Population That Resulted from the Collapse of the World Trade Center Towers
In the days following the collapse of the World Trade Center (WTC) towers on September 11, 2001 (9/11), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) initiated numerous air monitoring activities to better understand the ongoing impact of emissions from that disaster. Using these data, EPA conducted an inhalation exposure and human health risk assessment to the general population. This assessment does not address exposures and potential impacts that could have occurred to rescue workers, firefighters, and other site workers, nor does it address exposures that could have occurred in the indoor environment. Contaminants evaluated include particulate matter (PM), metals, polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins, asbestos, volatile organic compounds, particle-bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, silica, and synthetic vitreous fibers (SVFs). This evaluation yielded three principal findings.
- Persons exposed to extremely high levels of ambient PM and its components, SVFs, and other contaminants during the collapse of the WTC towers, and for several hours afterward, were likely to be at risk for acute and potentially chronic respiratory effects.
- Available data suggest that contaminant concentrations within and near ground zero (GZ) remained significantly elevated above background levels for a few days after 9/11. Because only limited data on these critical few days were available, exposures and potential health impacts could not be evaluated with certainty for this time period.
- Except for inhalation exposures that may have occurred on 9/11 and a few days afterward, the ambient air concentration data suggest that persons in the general population were unlikely to suffer short-term or long-term adverse health effects caused by inhalation exposures.