Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Trouble with WTC Asbestos

David Rockefeller and his brother, Nelson, originally conceived the twin towers as an urban renewal project to revitalize Lower Manhattan. In 1966, 164 buildings, including many electonics stores in seedy radio row, were demolished to create the WTC construction site.

But, with the realization of the Rockefellers' urban renewal dream came a nightmare: by the time the first tenants moved into the North Tower in December 1970, the World Trade Center was rife with asbestos…asbestos that 31 years later covered all of Lower Manhattan.

Exactly How Much Asbestos Did the WTC Contain?

Twin Tower Asbestos

Nobody seems to know exactly how much asbestos was in the WTC, but click on the image to the right and you'll get a pretty good idea: a lot!

The New York Port Authority originally planned to use 5,000 tons of asbestos fireproofing. The fireproofing, trademarked Blade-Shield, was manufactured by United States Mineral Products of Stanhope, N.J. It was 20% asbestos mixed with mineral wool — a concrete-like substance made from melted rock.

By 1971, medical studies began to show the cancerous effects of asbestos, and New York City banned its use in construction — but not before asbestos-containing Blade-Shield was sprayed on the beams and supports of the first 40 floors of the Twin Towers.

The Port Authority claims that over half of the applied asbestos-containing fireproofing had been removed by September 11, 2001.

So, how much asbestos remained in the Twin Towers?

Estimates vary from 400 tons all the way up to 2000 tons.

Getting Rid of 400 Tons of Asbestos

By the 1990s, the twenty-year-old Twin Towers — like any other twenty-year-old office buildings — were due for some major upgrades.

Writes John Perkins in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man:

…in recent years the complex…had the reputation of being A financial misfit, unsuited to modern fiber-optic and Internet technologies, and burdened with an inefficient and costly elevator system.

Unfortunately, due to the danger of spreading asbestos dust, building codes required any remodeling work be preceded by removing the asbestos.

So, in 1991, with two gigantic out-of-date office buildings on its hands, the Port Authority tried to garner the immense funds required to remove the asbestos: it filed suit against its insurers. The case, Port Authority of NY vs. Affiliated FM Insurance Co., sought between 500 million and 1 billion dollars for asbestos abatement.

The case dragged on for years, and then finally, on May 14, 2001, the judge ruled against the Port Authority; there would be no insurance money for asbestos removal.

Because of the asbestos health risks, and their size, the Twin Towers couldn't be demolished. And because of the asbestos, they couldn't be upgraded. And disassembling them floor by floor would have run into the double-digit billions of dollars.

So, that's how, by May 2001, the Port Authority found itself between several rocks and the hard bedrock 70 feet beneath the WTC.

The Bright Catastrophe at the End of the Tunnel

Lucky for the Port Authority, a gullible guy named Larry Silverstein showed up (actually, Silverstein was no stranger to the Port Authority — he'd developed and constructed Building 7 on the WTC site), and he wanted to lease the out-of-date no-future Twin Tower money pits. On July 24, 2001, Silverstein purchased the lease for 99 years in a deal worth over $3.2 billion. He then took out insurance policies that covered terrorist attacks. Just seven weeks later, we're told the terrorists did indeed attack. That's what we're told…but one can never be sure of a story worth $3.2 billion.

To date, Silverstein has received almost $5 billion from nine different insurance companies.

Meanwhile, mesotheliomasos, a rare lung cancer, has already begun to kill some of the hundreds of thousands of Manhattan residents and 9/11 first responders. Doctors and scientists agree that an increasing number of cases will appear due to the tons of WTC asbestos that rained down on Manhattan.


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