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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

UMB Studies the Environmental Impact of World Trade Center Attacks

The attacks on September 11 were devastating for the United States both morally and economically. The one impact that has seemingly been overlooked is the environmental impact of the attacks. In October 2002, UMass Boston’s Dr. Curtis Olsen, Dr. Sara Oktay, and graduate student Joseph Smith went out on to the chilly waters of the Hudson River to chart just that. What they found was that the attacks acted like a volcano spreading dust and debris over a sixteen-block radius. Some of this rubble was, through a series of very small steps, eventually deposited at the bottom of the Hudson River. It was then covered by other sediments, making a thin layer of World Trade Center wreckage. This layer acted like a “geochemical fingerprint.” The researchers then used this fingerprint to chart exactly where and how much of the WTC was deposited into the river and the bay.

This experiment is not the first of its kind. Dr. Curtis Olsen did a similar study on the effects on the environment from the Pearl Harbor bombing. His head researcher, Dr. Sarah Oktay, who spoke with The Mass Media, said that the study found that there were no detrimental effects on the environment. She did, however, mention that the effects of the dust of the WTC on people were yet to be determined. There have been reports of what’s known as “World Trade Center Cough.” Some scientists believe that the dust created from the attack is making people sick. The reason for this is that the fibers from the dust can act like asbestos in the lungs. If it were inhaled, anyone who breathed it in could suffer major health problems. Other scientists maintain that the fibers are far too long to be inhaled and that the cough is unrelated to the dust.

Dr. Oktay also mentioned that the study found an elevated level of radioactive iodine in the waters of the Hudson. The study found that it did not come from the WTC debris. In fact the only place radioactive iodine is used is in hospitals. It is normally used to treat hyperthyroidism. This is a disease caused by an over-active thyroid gland. Normally, to treat hyperthyroidism, radioactive iodine is ingested and once in the system it loses its radioactivity or passes through the system of the patient. This lends to the theory that the iodine is coming from the sewers after it has passed through the digestive systems of patients. A few of the side effects of radioactive iodine on a healthy person are fatigue, memory loss, and weight gain. It has yet to be determined where exactly the iodine is coming.

For the foreseeable future it is unclear what effect the results of the study will have on the Hudson. It seems the study has found more than it set out to do, and that the effects may be even more far reaching than expected. The results of the study were published in the January 21 edition of the scientific periodical EOS.