AUDIO: 9/11: Toxic Legacy (Discovery Times)Wed Dec 6, 2006 01:23
AUDIO: 9/11: Toxic Legacy (Recorded 12/5/06) Aprox 40 min
Discovery Times :: Episode :: 9/11: Toxic Legacy
Five years after 9/11, many first responders are suffering serious health complications. What was the environmental fallout from the terrorist attacks and ..
Toxic Legacy: A CLOUD of dust
On a sunny morning in September 2001, more than twenty seven hundred people died violently in events of unimaginable horror.
Another killer was unleashed that day. A slow silent poison that now threatens thousands of lives. the toxic dust and gases created by the disintegrating towers. An enormous compression wave pushed through the streets and into buildings with the force of a hurricane.
Watch an excerpt from 9/11: Toxic Legacy
Dr. David Prezant, the deputy medical officer of the New York City Fire Department remembers, "This sunny morning was pitch black. The ability to see in front of you was impossible. The ability to breathe was impossible and yet there was complete total silence." The dust swallowed lower Manhattan and spread outward in a giant cloud. As everyone fled, rescue workers raced into the toxic brew.
Paramedic Bill Dahl was among the many who rushed to the scene. "Within five minutes you couldn't see out of your eyes because they were caked. You found yourself spitting it out, trying to clear your nose and your mouth any way you could. When you breathe it in it burns your throat, it burns your nose, it burns your eyes and everybody coughed." That night Dahl says heavy winds turned the area into a giant sandblaster.
Jim Gilroy and his family fled their apartment three blocks north of Ground Zero. He did what he could to protect his baby daughter from the dust. "She was screaming. You're wrapping a wet cloth around her head but she's not going for it. But I was still trying it. We were just like refugees out on the street."
When Fire chief Jack Corcoran got to the site late that night, the air was still thick with dust. "There was no furniture, there was no glass, all that paper. Everything was either molten hot or pulverized. Anybody that was in that pile, I knew they weren't going to survive. There was no way they could get through that."
At the White House, dust was not an issue on anyone's agenda that day . getting America back to normal was. President Bush told advisors that he wanted New York back in business – by the next day if possible. But with thousands missing, the first priority was the search for survivors. Senator Hillary Clinton was one of the observers who were uneasy about the effects of the foul air on the rescuers. "I saw the firefighters coming out the haze and the dust, and looking not only exhausted but just covered from head to foot with soot and other debris, and I asked, someone who was there, I said 'are they using respirators, are they getting some kind of respite from this?' And I was told oh yes fine, you know, fine, don't need to worry about it."
EPA administrator Christie Todd Whitman assures workers that the air was safe.
Concerns about the level of toxicity in the air were quickly allayed by the Environmental Protection Agency. Forty-eight hours after the towers' collapsed EPA administrator Christie Todd Whitman spoke to the press from Ground Zero. "Right now we're not getting any elevated levels that indicate concern. We have monitored in Brooklyn, we are monitoring in what within a ten block area, in ten blocks of this area and again levels are all well below any indication of a health risk," she said.
During those first few desperate days concern for their own health was not on the minds of the thousands of rescue workers who poured into Ground Zero. Among them was ironworker John Sferazo. As with so many others, he has never recovered from what he saw. "There's nothing like witnessing it, that eerie feeling of knowing that there's dead all around, that silence and smell of the death that took place." He and other rescue workers raced against the clock in the dust and smoke. "This is what most of us suffer the most from, being there to help and not finding any survivors but body parts instead.papers and smoke and tragedy. That the best way to explain it - horror. We were there. We were there for America."
Watch a report by New York Times environmental reporter Anthony DePalma about the government response.
And America was there for them. Three days after the attack President Bush addressed the country's newest heroes at Ground Zero. "I can hear you. I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you, and the people and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon." "The feeling very much was that it was the system that was under attack. Not those two buildings. And so the response was to show that while we might have been hurt, we were not out of the fight. So it was important to get Wall Street back and operating," remembers Anthony DePalma, reporter from the New York Times.
See a graphic which shows what was in the dust
(opens in a new window)
Courtesy of the New York Times
Six days after 9/11, the New York Stock Exchange reopened. Foul smelling smoke and dust still hung over the city, but America was open for business. And on September 18th, the EPA released a statement that would have far reaching consequences. It made official what Whitman had been saying for days. The air is safe to breathe.
"We all laughed. We said this is ridiculous. I don't know what sample is she taking, but we all looked at each other in disbelief. Not that it made a difference. We weren't going home. We were going to stay for the duration. We were going to get this job done," remembers architect Ron Vega who knew his way around all kinds of building sites. But, he says, Ground Zero was another world. "Here we are, in a basically a seven-storey high toxic sandpit, where if you just kick it up you can send toxins into your body that could hurt you for life. You know, ten times the amount that one little scratch of asbestos on a pipe in a basement can do."
Architect Ron Vega worked on the site.
The dust created that day was a substance that no one had ever been exposed to before. Everything in the towers had been pulverized and burnt - windows, lights, computers, plastics, fiberglass tiles and asbestos insulation. It contained more than one hundred different compounds, some of which have never been identified. And other dangers swirled in the air. Carcinogens were released from the site's massive superheated fires, although exactly what was in the technicolor smoke that engulfed the workers will never be known. It may take years before the effects of all the contaminants are revealed, but doctors do know that pulverized concrete, ground glass and acid mist caused respiratory irritation and inflammation.
As the rescue efforts moved to recovery and the days moved to weeks workers began to feel disturbing side effects. Architect Ron Vega, "You couldn't feel healthy on that site. It was impossible. Your eyes were tearing, your chest was always tight. You're always coughing up something. So we knew we were sick day one. But we always thought that once we left the site, we'd get better. We always said, you're working in a swimming pool, you're going to get wet. Once you get out, you'd be all right."
APFN 9/11 INFO AND LINKS:
X X X
Main Page - Sunday, 12/10/06
Message Board by American Patriot Friends Network [APFN]
APFN MESSAGEBOARD ARCHIVES