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Trade Center debris pile was a chemical factory, says new study

The fuming World Trade Center debris pile was a chemical factory that exhaled pollutants in particularly dangerous forms that could penetrate deep into the lungs of workers at Ground Zero, says a new study by UC Davis air-quality experts.

The new work helps explain the very fine particles and extraordinarily high concentrations found by an earlier UC Davis study, the first to identify very fine metallic aerosols in unprecedented amounts from Ground Zero. It will be essential to understanding the growing record of health problems.

The conditions would have been "brutal" for people working at Ground Zero without respirators and slightly less so for those working or living in immediately adjacent buildings, said the study's lead author, Thomas Cahill, a UC Davis professor emeritus of physics and atmospheric science and research professor in engineering.

"Now that we have a model of how the debris pile worked, it gives us a much better idea of what the people working on and near the pile were actually breathing," Cahill said. "Our first report was based on particles that we collected one mile away. This report gives a reasonable estimate of what type of pollutants were actually present at Ground Zero.

"The debris pile acted like a chemical factory. It cooked together the components of the buildings and their contents, including enormous numbers of computers, and gave off gases of toxic metals, acids and organics for at least six weeks."

Cahill, an international authority on the constituents and transport of airborne particles, will summarize the new study this Wednesday (Sept. 10) at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society, being held this year in New York City.

Cahill heads the UC Davis DELTA Group (for Detection and Evaluation of Long-range Transport of Aerosols), a collaborative association of scientists at several universities and national laboratories. The DELTA Group has made detailed studies of sma
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Contact: Sylvia Wright
swright@ucdavis.edu
530-752-7704
University of California - Davis
10-Sep-2003


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