Persistent organic pollutants in 9/11 world trade center rescue workers: reduction following detoxification

Chemosphere. 2007 Oct;69(8):1320-5. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2006.05.127. Epub 2007 Jan 17.


Exposure to toxins following the September 11, 2001 attack on and collapse of the World Trade Center (WTC) is of particular concern given the ultra fine particulate dust cloud, high temperature combustion, and months-long fire. Firefighters, paramedics, police and sanitation crews are among the approximately 40000 personnel who labored for weeks and months on rescue and cleanup efforts. Many of the rescue workers have subsequently developed symptoms that remain unresolved with time. This study characterizes body burdens of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs), and polychlorinated dioxins (PCDDs) in rescue workers and citizens exposed following the WTC collapse. Our research includes a pilot evaluation of a detoxification method aimed at reducing toxic burden. Many congeners were found at elevated levels, in ranges associated with occupational exposures. Post-detoxification testing revealed reductions in these congeners and despite the small study size, some reductions were statistically significant. Health symptoms completely resolved or were satisfactorily improved on completion of treatment. These results argue for a larger treatment study of this method and an overall treatment approach to address toxic burden.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Benzofurans / blood
  • Benzofurans / pharmacokinetics
  • Dibenzofurans, Polychlorinated
  • Dioxins / blood
  • Dioxins / pharmacokinetics
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Environmental Pollutants / pharmacokinetics
  • Humans
  • Inactivation, Metabolic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / pharmacokinetics
  • Rescue Work*
  • September 11 Terrorist Attacks*


  • Benzofurans
  • Dibenzofurans, Polychlorinated
  • Dioxins
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls