Sci Total Environ 2008 Feb 19;390(2-3):514-9. Epub 2007 Nov 19.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development (ORD), Research Triangle Park, NC 27711, USA.
The September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center (WTC) covered a large area of downtown New York City with dust and debris. This paper describes the testing of an analytical method designed to evaluate whether sampled dust contains dust that may have originated from the collapse of the WTC. Using dust samples collected from locations affected and not affected (referred to as 'background' locations) by the collapse, a scanning electron microscopy (SEM) analysis method was developed to screen for three materials that are believed to be present in large quantities in WTC dusts: slag wool, concrete, and gypsum. An inter-laboratory evaluation of the method was implemented by having eight laboratories analyze a number of 'blind' dust samples, consisting of confirmed background dust and confirmed background dust spiked with varying amounts of dust affected by the WTC collapse. The levels of gypsum and concrete in the spiked samples were indistinguishable from the levels in the background samples. Measurements of slag wool in dust demonstrated potential for distinguishing between spiked and background samples in spite of considerable within and between laboratory variability. Slag wool measurements appear to be sufficiently sensitive to distinguish dust spiked with 5% WTC-affected dust from 22 out of 25 background dust samples. Additional development work and inter-laboratory testing of the slag wool component will be necessary to improve the precision and accuracy of the method and reduce inter- and intra-laboratory variability from levels observed in the inter-laboratory evaluation.