City of Dust
Illness, Ignorance, and Arrogance at Ground Zero
Financial Times Press, Fall 2010
Anthony DePalma has been reporting for the New York Times on the World Trade Center dust since 2004 — a substance with properties that remain little understood, and which, in many ways continues to cast a cloud over us.
Scientists struggle to understand its chemical composition; medical researchers work to apprehend its effects on our health; epidemiologists assemble data, the significance of which will not be apparent for another twenty years; rescue workers and local residents suffer medical conditions that may or may not have resulted from their exposure; attorneys pursue claims, some of them valid, others opportunistic. Public health officials and politicians made tough decisions based on (or willfully disregarding) scant evidence. And all of us still hold the image of that roiling, apocalyptic cloud in our minds. The dust, in the unexpectedly poetic words of the scientist who studied it most thoroughly, “contains everything we hold dear.”