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Asbestos, WTC Toxins, and Garden Soil
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Cyndi Norman, Soil condition since the disaster (10/3/01)
Cyndi Norman, Asbestos on Soil (10/7/01)

Date: Wed, 3 Oct 2001 11:23:10 -0700 (PDT)
From: Cyndi Norman (cnorman@best.com)
Subject: Re: Soil condition since the disaster

Date: Tue, 2 Oct 2001 12:48:56 -0400
From: (anon)

Several parks were closed in the Downtown area of Manhattan in the past few days. The top soil was tested and showed double the allowed amount of Asbestos in it.

Do you have a reference for this finding? I'd like to cite it.

I live in Brooklyn, about 20 miles from the disaster area (Ground Zero). My small vegetable plot is doing well, however I'm wondering if I should be concerned about the soil condition in my yard and whether my soil absorbed anything that was harmful and present in the air since the disaster?

I would get it tested. Asbestos levels are likely low or nonexistent, though it depends how the wind went. Fiberglass made up a huge percentage of the dust and I don't know how bad that is in soil or how much might have reached you.

The smoke is a bigger concern. Horrible nasty toxins that no one is even sure of. It's just not common for office buildings to incinerate. The biggest danger is the office furniture. Burning plastics and etc. The smoke can definitely go 20 miles (check out the NASA pictures if you don't believe me). There are many reports from people in Brooklyn who could smell the smoke (they described smelling burning plastics, for one).

But it sounds like you're pretty "inland" and perhaps didn't get the brunt of it. The smoke plumes went south on the first day. Even if you got hit with the smoke, I don't know if your soil and plants are contaminated. You'll have to get it tested. Maybe your neighbors would chip in for a test since results will be similar. If you see soot on your plants, that's a bad sign. If there is nothing visible, you're more likely to be okay, but it's not certain.

Perhaps it is wise of me to pull up the vegetables and not grow anything edible there in the next year or so?

If you decide there may be contamination and you will discard your crop, do not pull them up early. Let the plants grow for as long as possible so they pull toxins up into them. Then discard them into a landfill (as much as I hate using landfills for compostable items, you just don't know what the risks might be).

Some plants are known detoxifiers. Lemon scented geraniums are one. But you need to know what is in your soil and then decide how to get rid of it. Many things might be fine after a winter with a layer of manure and mulch. Others may take professional decontamination.

My website has articles and links that talk about the best guesses of what is in the dust and the smoke. That should be a good starting point for testing.


In particular, check out these subpages:



Date: Sun, 7 Oct 2001 14:00:07 -0700 (PDT)
From: Cyndi Norman (cnorman@best.com)
Subject: Re: Asbestos on Soil

Date: Thu, 4 Oct 2001 08:03:41 +0100
From: (anon)

Asbestos isn't (to my knowledge) taken up by plants since the crystals are relatively large, so I wouldn't worry overly. If you did get any asbestos, your best bet is to wash all of your veggies well before using.

NO! whilst I wouldn't worry about it too much once its been stabilized in the soil if you have known asbestos falling from the sky in your area you put on gloves, you get a plastic trash bag, you pull your veggies and bag them and trash them. Asbestos is not taken up by plants but it sits on the leaves as minute invisible fibres.

Asbestos is very, very dangerous stuff if you get it in a situation where you can possibly breath it in

Do not mess with asbestos. Do not clean it up yourself. Do not handle it. Do not go near it.

I disagree with anon's advice to put on gloves and cleanup your garden. It's your lungs and eyes that really need the protection and only respirators rated for asbestos (not paper, not cloth, not painting masks, etc) are helpful. You also have to protect your skin and deal with decontaminating clothes, hair, skin, etc when you are finished.

If you think this is too much to expect an individual to do, you are right. Use trained professionals. Get the soil (or your home, car, workplace, etc) tested. Then hire a professional asbestos abatement company to do the work. FEMA can help you pay for this. There are other government funds available as well including various disaster relief programs and crime victim programs.

There are news articles and press releases going around to NYC residents about how to clean up asbestos dust in their homes. It is wrong and dangerous. The people who wrote them ought to be ashamed of themselves because they know better. There's a lot of "don't worry" going around these days as a way to quell panic. While that's a reasonable thing to do, it's not helpful when telling the truth could prevent an awful lot of illness in the next few months, years, and decades.

I am neurotic about this - my mother died of asbestosis as a result of air born contamination when she was a child - initially misdiagnosed as secondaries from breast cancer until they found literally two fibres in her lungs

As well you should be. Most asbestos-related disease comes from long-term exposure. Most cases are in workers who dealt directly with asbestos over the course of decades.

Note the term "most."

There is no safe amount of asbestos. A single fiber can cause lung scarring which can lead to a wide variety of diseases, including cancer.

People who smoke have 55 (fifty five) times the chance of getting asbestos disease than nonsmokers with similar exposures to asbestos.

I predict there will be thousands...maybe more...cases of asbestos-related disease in 20-30 years coming from the WTC dust. I hope to God I'm wrong. Please don't be one of them. Get tests and do the cleanup right. Not fast, not easy, not cheap, but right.

Tons of asbestos info up on my website. Specifically, check out this article: http://www.immuneweb.org/911/articles/wla.html

Also check out the organization whose website I do, the White Lung Association: http://www.whitelung.org/


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