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Mind and matter: OEM and the World Trade Center
  1. H M Kipen,
  2. M Gochfeld
  1. UMDNJ–Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, EOHSI–Occupational Health Division, Piscataway, New Jersey, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Prof. H M Kipen, Professor and Acting Chairman, UMDNJ–Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, EOHSI–Occupational Health Division, 170 Frelinghuysen Road, Piscataway, NJ 08854, USA;

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The aftermath of the World Trade Center collapse

On 11 September 2001 life changed for many people in the New York Metropolitan Area, in the United States, and in many parts of the world. Many have speculated that some of these changes in commerce, travel, and in a sense of personal security, will be enduring. For occupational and environmental health (OEH) professionals it is likely that there will be some enduring changes in the focus of their practice. We examine some aspects of the aftermath of the World Trade Center collapse from an occupational and environmental medicine (OEM) viewpoint and speculate on how this could impact OEM.

New York's vaunted plan for handling mass casualties was tragically never tested, as the number of injured survivors was limited to approximately 600, with a still inexact number killed (3000–4000), including 343 firemen. From the health and safety perspective we see four target populations (building occupants, rescue workers, demolition workers, and neighbouring residents) and three phases: immediate evacuation (hours), rescue and recovery (about 10 days), and demolition and removal (months), followed by a potential for persistent effects.

For workers and bystanders in phase I there were traumatic injuries, including acute smoke and fume inhalations which could ultimately give rise to well known syndromes such as reactive airways dysfunction syndrome (RADS). A listing of subsequent first aid and emergency medical cases shows that among the injuries in the first three weeks were chest pain, contusions, lacerations, burns, and various lung injuries, although information on severity is not available at this time.1 Remarkably no deaths have been reported among rescue workers despite the hazardous spelunking below the mangled pile.

The 10 acre site included seven buildings, with each tower footprint about 209 feet square (1 acre).2 Estimates place the number of occupants and …

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