Persistent organic pollutants in the dusts that settled across lower Manhattan after September 11, 2001

Environ Sci Technol. 2003 Feb 1;37(3):502-8. doi: 10.1021/es025730g.


The explosion and collapse of the World Trade Center (WTC) was a catastrophic event that produced an aerosol impacting many workers, residents, and commuters during the first few days after September 11, 2001. During the initial days that followed, 14 bulk samples of the settled dust were collected at locations surrounding the epicenter of the disaster, including one indoor location. Some samples were analyzed for many potential hazards, including inorganic and organic constituents as well as morphology. The results of the analyses for persistent organic pollutants are described herein, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, and select organochlorine pesticides on settled dust samples. The sigma86-PCBs comprising less than 0.001% by mass of the bulk in the three bulk samples analyzed indicated that PCBs were of limited significance in the total settled dust across lower Manhattan. Likewise, organochlorine pesticides, including chlordanes, hexachlorobenzene, heptachlor, 4,4'-DDE, 2,4'-DDT, 4,4'-DDT, and Mirex, were found at low concentrations in the bulk samples. Conversely, the sigma37-PAHs comprised up to nearly 0.04% (<0.005-0.039%) by mass of the bulk settled dust in the six bulk samples. Further size segregation of these three initial bulk samples and seven additional samples indicates that sigma37-PAHs were found in higher concentrations on relatively large particles (10-53 microm), representing up to 0.04% of the total dust mass. Significant concentrations were also found on fine particles (<2.5 microm), often accounting for approximately 0.005% by mass. We estimate that approximately 100-1000 tons of sigma37-PAHs were spread over a localized area immediately after the WTC disaster on September 11.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aircraft
  • DDT / analysis*
  • Dust
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Humans
  • Insecticides / analysis*
  • New York City
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / analysis*
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / analysis*
  • Public Health
  • Terrorism*


  • Dust
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Insecticides
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • DDT
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls