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WTC Debris?
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World Trade Center Debris and Fallout
Can Make You Sick

Here's What It May Contain

Testing by the EPA and Molloy Environmental reveals that the level of toxins in the air varies, depending on activity at ground zero and wind direction. The level of toxins in the dust also varies, depending on the components in individual samples.


Asbestos was used to insulate the Twin Towers. Their collapse released millions of asbestos fibers into the air. The debris continues to release asbestos.

Immediate symptoms: None

Long-term symptoms: Lung cancer; asbestosis.

Combustion Byproducts

The burning jet fuel and fuel in many emergency vehicles produces a high concentration of diesel particles and toxic combustion gases, such as nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and sulfuric oxide.

Immediate symptoms: Sleepiness, fatigue

Long-term symptoms: Upper respiratory disorders, emphysema

Heavy Metals

The collapse released volatile and particulate heavy metals into the air, including iron, lead and cadmium.

Immediate symptoms: Lead and mercury poisoning; hypertension.

Long-term symptoms: Brain damage, dyslexia.


The WTC collapse produced massive quantities of small particles. Many contain toxins and carcinogens, such as benzene, nitrous oxide, acids (hydrochloric, sulfuric) and plastics (sulfonamides).

Immediate symptoms: Burning eyes, short-term memory loss, chronic fatigue.

Long-term symptoms: Cancer

PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls)

The electrical generators in the WTC released PCBs, which are carcinogenic.

Immediate symptoms: None

Long-term symptoms: Cancer

Volatile Organic Compounds

The high temperatures of burning jet fuel released VOCs (volatile organic compounds) into the air. Some of these carcinogenic and mutinogenic compounds are bound up in the dust and debris.

Immediate symptoms: Breathing problems, dizziness, confusion

Long-term symptoms: Cancer and gene mutations


Although not released in the disaster, rain, leaks and humidity created perfect conditions for the growth and spread of toxic mold in affected buildings.

Immediate symptoms: Allergic reactions, hives, short-term memory loss, digestive disorders, breathing difficulties

Long-term symptoms: Hypersensitivity disease