Friday, January 19, 2007

Asbestos Fireproofing Might Have Prevented World Trade Center Collapse
Thursday, January 18, 2007 By Steven Milloy

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, I suggested in this column on Sept. 14, 2001 that many lives could have been saved if asbestos fireproofing been used in the World Trade Center.

Though controversial at the time, my view has gained in validity since then, according to “Eco-Freaks” (Nelson Current, 2006), a new book by John Berlau.

Berlau, a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (a think-tank with which I am affiliated), details in one chapter of “Eco-Freaks” the series of events leading up to the decision to stop using asbestos fireproofing in the WTC and the post-Sept. 11 testing of the WTC-type fireproofing by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Well after construction began on the WTC towers, the campaign of Mount Sinai Hospital’s Irving Selikoff to scare the public about asbestos reached World Trade Center construction manager Rino Monti, who became worried in May 1970 that office workers might be exposed to asbestos from air passing over exposed asbestos fireproofing that had been sprayed on to the buildings’ structural steel.

Selikoff and Monti pushed for asbestos substitutes, vouching for their safety and effectiveness – even though the substitutes had barely been tested against fire, according to WTC documents from the 1970s...

Although Monti ordered basic testing of the substitute fireproofing materials by Underwriters Laboratory, he apparently didn’t wait for the testing to be complete before they were used in the WTC towers – that’s according to a report on the WTC collapse by the Commerce Department’s NIST.

As a result, asbestos fireproofing was only used up to the thirty-eighth floor of the first WTC tower and not at all in the second. Continuing asbestos hysteria eventually resulted in much of the asbestos eventually being ripped out of the first tower.

Berlau recounts how the effectiveness of asbestos fireproofing was proven during an intense Feb. 13, 1975 fire that burned for more than three hours in the elevator and utility shafts from the ninth to nineteenth floors of the first WTC tower – an area where asbestos fireproofing was still intact at the time. Despite the fire’s intensity – it burned nearly everything, including telephone panels and wiring, and got hot enough to blow out windows – the asbestos fireproofing contained the fire so that it did minimal damage to the rest of the building.

A subsequent fire analysis report from an engineering firm noted that the fire, “while reported in the press to have been very hot, did not damage a single primary, fireproofed element.”

Berlau’s report of the post-Sept. 11 fireproofing testing by NIST underscores the chilling possibility that the Sept. 11 WTC building collapses may have been delayed if not preventable had asbestos fireproofing been used.,2933,244698,00.html

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