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

J. H. Offenberg, S. J. Eisenreich, L. C. Chen, M. D. Cohen, G. Chee, C. Prophete, C. Weisel, P. J. Lioy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


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 Σ86-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 Σ37-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 Σ37-PAHs were found in higher concentrations on relatively large particles (10-53 μm), representing up to 0.04% of the total dust mass. Significant concentrations were also found on fine particles (<2.5 μm), often accounting for ∼0.005% by mass. We estimate that approximately 100-1000 tons of Σ37-PAHs were spread over a localized area immediately after the WTC disaster on September 11.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)502-508
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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