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Was there a cover-up of the risk for respiratory illness at ground zero?


A New York firefighter walks away from ground zero shortly after the Twin Towers collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001.
A New York firefighter walks away from ground zero shortly after the Twin Towers collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001.
Anthony Correia/Getty Images

The events of Sept. 11, 2001 have had a long-lasting effect on Americans, who remember the day with sadness and horror. For some New Yorkers and others involved in the rescue and recovery efforts that day, the long-term health effects have been devastating.

An estimated 40,000 to 90,000 workers and volunteers were involved in some way in the rescue and recovery attempt and may have been affected by the dust. Respiratory illnesses have been especially prevalent.

Scientists have called the dust, smoke and ash unleashed by the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11 the greatest acute environmental disaster in New York City history [source: New York Times]. Fires burned at 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit (537.8 degrees Celsius), creating a toxic cloud that covered lower Manhattan and spread to neighboring areas, as well as to the outer boroughs.

As the towers fell, they pulverized the cement, asbestos and other materials contained in the building, while the pressure of the collapsing floors fused materials in potentially dangerous combinations.

Questions have been raised about whether or not authorities, especially the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), could have increased public awareness about the hazards of the air quality at ground zero in the days and weeks following the attack. To learn more about the debate, read on.


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