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Hazards of the World Trade Center

On the asbestosis threat, the WTC contained enormous amounts of asbestos.
12 September 2001

Date: 12 September 2001

On the asbestosis threat, the WTC contained enormous amounts of asbestos. The two collapses
probably released more asbestos debris at one time than ever in history. Today we saw dozens of
workers clad in full asbestos protection suits resting, waiting to be sent back to the site. I've seen no
photos of them in the news, nor mention of the great clouds of asbestos-contaminated smoke that has
spread over the city, and continues to be spread as vehicles drive through the deep layers of
contaminated dust on the streets and sidewalks. Blocks of buildings are covered with this carcinogen,
wind whipping it regularly on its way to the outer boroughs and New Jersey, even out to sea to attack
the protecting US naval fleet.

Again, the WTC was not required to comply with building and environmental codes governing
asbestos amelioration due its being constructed by the Port Authority which was exempt from

The history of pernicious practices by these quasi-governmental "authorities" is worth reading, from
the Tennessee Valley Authority to New York's Urban Development Corporation, Dormitory
Authority and Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority. There are dozens of these around the country
set up to bypass bureaucratic controls, to market bonds, to design, build and operate facilities, and
some of them have become quite wealthy, such as the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority,
Robert Moses's home base and still the source of great patronage from its bulging coffers.

On the question of rebuilding the towers, I think not likely, at least not in their original form. Perhaps a
diminished version, safer to people and the urban environment, in full compliance with building, zoning
and environmental codes.

On the question of buildings being constructed to not fall when a neighbor falls. That requirement in
NYC is covered by its earthquake design regulations -- the city is in an earthquake zone. However
those requirements are for only a modest amount of restraint against lateral movement and would not
have prevented the kind of damage caused by the two towers' hundreds of thousands of tons of
debris impacting the base and walls of adjacent buildings. Calamitous earthquakes such as those in
Kobe, Japan, Mexico City and elsewhere have produced that kind of collateral damage. However,
no major quake has ever hit buildings like the WTC, though minor quakes have been withstood by
buildings designed for that purpose.

Finally, design professionals are bound by capacious building, zoning and environmental codes, and
corresponding licensing, those of NY State and City considered to be some of the best in the world.
Much of that reputation is based on being the first to attempt daring feats of construction and to serve
as a testing laboratory, for good or for ill. The same goes for health, education and social benefit
standards. The city presents an almost unparalleled testing ground for bold experiments in avarice and
welfare and the collateral damage of their competition. I suspect that is why it is so loved and hated
by its inhabitants as well as the planet.

I never heard the Twin Towers referred to as "beloved" as are so many of the globe's architectural
landmarks of avarice. Perhaps in death that will happen as with venerated ruins of folly.



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