14 September 2001
Date: Fri, 14 Sep 2001 20:55:00 EDT
Subject: Fwd: Fw: Excellent column on how asbestos hysteria may have led to WTC deaths
Just another viewpoint.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, September 14, 2001 6:52 AM
Subject: Excellent column on how asbestos hysteria may have led to WTC deaths
Asbestos Could Have Saved WTC Lives
Friday, September 14, 2001
By Steven Milloy
Asbestos fibers in the air and rubble following the collapse of the World Trade Center is adding to fears in the aftermath of Tuesday's terrorist attack. The true tragedy in the asbestos story, though, is the lives that might have been saved but for 1970s-era hysteria about asbestos.
Until 30 years ago, asbestos was added to flame-retardant sprays used to insulate steel building materials, particularly floor supports. The insulation was intended to delay the steel from melting in the case of fire by up to four hours.
In the case of the World Trade Center, emergency plans called for this four-hour window to be used to evacuate the building while helicopters sprayed to put out the fire and evacuated persons from the roof.
The use of asbestos ceased in the 1970s following reports of asbestos workers becoming ill from high exposures to asbestos fibers. The Mt. Sinai School of Medicine's Irving Selikoff had reported that asbestos workers had higher rates of lung cancer and other diseases. Selikoff then played a key role in the campaign to halt the use of asbestos in construction.
In 1971, New York City banned the use of asbestos in spray fireproofing. At that time, asbestos insulating material had only been sprayed up to the 64th floor of the World Trade Center towers.
Other materials were substituted for asbestos. Though the substitute sprays passed Underwriters Laboratories' tests, not everyone was convinced they would work as well.
One skeptic was the late-Herbert Levine who invented spray fireproofing with wet asbestos in the late-1940s. Levine's invention involved a combination of asbestos with mineral wool and made commonplace the construction of large steel framed buildings.
Previously, buildings such as the Empire State Building had to have their steel framework insulated with concrete, a much more expensive insulator that was more difficult to use.
Levine's company, Asbestospray, was familiar with the World Trade Center construction, but failed to get the contract for spraying insulation in the World Trade Center. Levine frequently would say that "if a fire breaks out above the 64th floor, that building will fall down."
That appears to be what happened Tuesday, according to Richard Wilson, a risk expert and physics professor at Harvard University.
The two hijacked airliners crashed into floors 96 to 103 of One World Trade Center and floors 87 to 93 of Two World Trade Center. Instead of the steel girders of the towers lasting up to four hours before melting, the steel frames of One World Trade Center lasted only one hour and forty minutes, while the steel frames of Two World Trade Center lasted just 56 minutes before collapsing.
Though many were able to escape during those times, thousands apparently were not, including the hundreds of firefighters and police killed when the buildings suddenly and prematurely collapsed.
Selikoff was certainly right to point out that some workers heavily exposed to certain types of asbestos fibers were at increased risk of disease. But Selikoff was wrong to press the panic button about any use of or exposure to asbestos. For example, no adverse health effect has ever been attributed to Levine's technique of spraying wet asbestos, according to Harvard's Wilson.
We may now be paying a horrible price for junk science-fueled asbestos hysteria.
Steven Milloy is the publisher of JunkScience.com, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and the author of the upcoming book Junk Science Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams (Cato Institute, 2001).
From: John Young <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 14 September 2001
Dear Mr. F,
The column, "Asbestos Could Have Saved WTC Lives," by Steven Milloy, was forwarded to me. I appreciate being able to read it. I would like to correct an assumption Mr. Milloy made that asbestos insulation would have prevented the collapse. (I'm a licensed architect practising in NYC.)
The structural insulation used in WTC was just as good fireproofing as the wet asbestos system so that was not the cause of the collapse. What caused it was the blasting away of fireproofing from structural steel of the core and floor structure by impact of the aircraft and explosion of its fuel as well as extremely high heat of the flaming fuel well above the capability of the fireproofing and as the effect of the high heat on the steelwork.
Asbestos would have been not better in resisting this level of heat. Indeed, sprayed-on asbestos might well have been blasted away more readily than other material due to its lightweight, loose-fiber constituency.
All methods of fireproofing systems are rated by the number of hours of fire-resistance they provide, 1-hr, 2-hr, 3-hr and so on. This is true no matter what material is used, asbestos or any other of a variety of fireproofing materials. The rating is set by laboratory testing of samples of materials by accredited testing laboratories, and the results are published in fire-resistance handbooks used by design professionals, building officials and insurance underwriters to comply with building codes.
Asbestos was a wonderful material but turned out to have the fatal flaw of being carcinogenic. Other materials have been found that match asbestos for its excellent qualities but do not have its fatal flaw.
Long-time manufacturers and installers of asbestos fought for decades to conceal its murderous properties, and many of them used arguments used by Mr. Herbert Levine to prolong that concealment. The arguments are false and cruel and should not be revived. Asbestos continues to be significant health hazard and there continues to be advocates who falsely claim it is better than its safe replacements.
I would appreciate your sending this to any lists to which you sent Mr. Milloy's column, and to Mr. Milloy as well.
And I am most receptive to responses on this topic. I operate a website at Cryptome.org where lessons to be learned about architectural and engineering failures of the WTC collapse are posted:
John Young Architect
251 West 89th Street
New York, NY 10024