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What Chemicals Did the World Trade Center Collapse Release into the Environment?

The dust, smoke and haze emanating from Ground Zero is the result of a massive chemical reaction that occurred at 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, combining jet fuel with building materials, mainly metals, concrete and plastics.

The smoke and haze contains:

  • Acidic gases, such as sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid and various oxides of nitrogen;
  • Toxic organic chemicals, including but not limited to 75 known carcinogens produced by burning plastic materials (benzene, formaldehyde, polychlorinated solvents, furans);
  • Cyanide from insulation materials;
  • Vaporized lead, mercury and cadmium;
  • PCB's from the towers' electrical generators;
  • Pulverized lead from the buildings' paint;
  • sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide;
  • Organic toxins produced by the fire, including formaldehyde, vinyl chloride, styrene, alkanes, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, benzene; as well as
  • Contaminants produced by the burning jet fuel, such as diesel soot particles.

The dust contains:

  • Pulverized concrete
    Concrete dust acts like a sponge and absorbed many of the chemicals released in the fire and collapse. This extremely fine concrete dust can carry these chemicals into the lungs, as well as irritate the eyes and other muscoal tissues.
  • Asbestos.
    The WTC dust also contains a large quantity of asbestos, because the buildings were insulated with asbestos up to their 40th floors. Asbestos was also used as insulation in the vinyl flooring. Although asbestos is not as carcinogenic as many of the other chemicals released in the disaster, the fine particles can lodge in the lungs and create cancer, asbestosis or mesothelioma years later.

Until all the debris is removed, concrete particles will continue to be carried by the prevailing winds, leaving a dusting of hazardous debris on streets, cars, buildings, and inside apartments and stores with open windows and doors in the surrounding area.

Until the fire is out, harmful combustion gases and volatilized organic toxins will continue to be released into the air. Because there was insufficient oxygen to burn all the jet fuel when the planes hit the buildings, some fuel is still burning on the site in the presence of this fine dust.