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City of Dust: Illness, Arrogance, and 9/11 (FT Press Science) 1st Edition

27 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0131385665
ISBN-10: 9780131385665
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Nearly a decade after the destruction of the World Trade Center towers in the Sept. 11 attacks, the toxic legacy of the dust cloud that covered the neighborhood endures. DePalma (Here), a former New York Times reporter who covered the attacks and their aftermath, dissects the policy mistakes and bitter medical and legal clashes over the health problems suffered by rescue workers, cleanup crew, and survivors. The political and economic necessity of getting New York up and running again left "no time for the great city to dwell on what the long-term impact of the dust might be." DePalma methodically if occasionally awkwardly traces the efforts of scientists and doctors to assess the effects of the contaminated dust on the tens of thousands exposed, and the methods used to determine compensation. The scope of the aftereffects remains so vast that DePalma's account doesn't always retain a sense of narrative urgency, but he does convey how outrageously bureaucracy has stalled appropriate care for survivors and rescue workers. "Trust collapsed with the towers, and dust buried the truth," he writes, and the path to retribution remains obscured.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Kirkus Reviews calls Anthony DePalma's City of Dust  "An important story with broad ramifications."


Natural Resources Defense Council calls City of Dust  "Part chronicle of tragedy and heroism, part detective story and part legal thriller."


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Product Details

  • Series: FT Press Science
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: FT Press; 1 edition (August 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780131385665
  • ISBN-13: 978-0131385665
  • ASIN: 0131385666
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,925,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author


Anthony DePalma was the first foreign correspondent of The New York Times to serve as bureau chief in both Mexico and Canada. Starting in 1993, he covered some of the most tumultuous events in modern Mexican history, including the Zapatista uprising, the assassination of the ruling party's presidential candidate and the peso crisis that quickly spread economic chaos to markets all over the world. In 1996 he was transferred to the other end of America.

In Canada he reported from all ten provinces and three territories, covering natural disasters like the Quebec ice storm and the Red River flood--both once in a century occurrences--the 1997 federal elections that revealed deep regional divisions in Canada, and the historic Indian treaties in British Columbia. In addition, he wrote extensively about the creation of the territory of Nunavut, in which Inuit people formed their own government.

Besides North America, Mr. DePalma has reported from Cuba, Guatemala, Suriname, Guyana, and, during the Kosovo crisis, Montenegro and Albania. His book "Here: A Biography of the New American Continent," was published in the United States and Canada in 2001. An updated version, with a post 9/11 afterword, was published in 2002.

From 2000 to 2002, Mr. DePalma was an international business correspondent for The Times covering North and South America. During his tenure with The Times, he also has held positions in the Metropolitan and National sections of the newspaper. Most recently he wrote about the working class and the environment in New York City. In 2003, he was awarded a fellowship at Notre Dame's Kellogg Institute for International Studies, where he began work on "The Man Who Invented Fidel: Castro, Cuba and Herbert L. Matthews of The New York Times," which was published in 2006. It has been translated into Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.

Mr. DePalma has taught graduate seminars at New York University and is an adjunct professor at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. In 2007 he was named a Hoover Media Fellow at Stanford University, and he delivered the annual Jane E. Ruby Lecture at Wheaton College. He was a finalist for a 2007 Emmy for his work on the television documentary "Toxic Legacy."

In September, 2008, Mr. DePalma was named writer-in-residence at Seton Hall University, where he teaches journalism and Latin American issues. In 2009 he delivered the Donald B. Regan Lecture on North America at St. Thomas University in Minneapolis, and later that same year he received the Maria Moors Cabot Prize for distinguished international journalism from Columbia University. He continues to contribute to The New York Times and is a frequent lecturer on the Americas. His latest book, "City of Dust," about the health and environmental aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center, was published in September 2010. The Chicago Sun-Times named it one of the best non-fiction books of the year.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By K. M. VINE VOICE on August 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
On September 11, the collapse of the Twin Towers hellishly covered everything in a given radius in inches of pulverized, "highly caustic cement dust" laced with asbestos, benzene and "other dangerous elements." People running away were blizzardized with these toxic materials. Nearby buildings, including residences, were infiltrated. And rescue workers who came to the massive pile of WTC debris to search for survivors and fight the ongoing fires breathed the stuff in for days on end.

City of Dust: Illness, Arrogance, and 9/11 is a thoroughgoing examination of the contours of the health crisis that followed from this poisonous dusting (at thick as four inches close to the epicenter) of New York City. Author Anthony DePalma reports on every aspect from adverse symptoms attributed by sufferers to the dust to medical efforts to treat and document them. From city, state, and federal actions taken regarding the health concerns to legal actions (including class action law suits brought in federal court and still pending in 2010) brought against those governments later when their actions were scrutinized and found wanting. DePalma tells the stories of a number who died from complications apparently linked to the dust, as well as of some who are still alive but continue to experience severe respiratory and other ailments. Perhaps most compelling are the passages in which the reader follows along with someone who was near Ground Zero on the fateful day. These stories alone make the book worth reading.

However, the author, not constricted by inch space in a newspaper or a printed magazine, is determined to record countless details.
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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Tom Hansen on August 19, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A definite buy if you are interested in the details of the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath!

This book chronicles the lasting effects of the dust cloud that surged over Manhattan on 9/11 when the towers came down. The dust was a mixture of mercury vapor from the thousands of florescent tubes, gasses from the improperly burning jet fuel, asbestos, pulverized concrete dust from the structure itself, as well as untold hundreds of other volatile chemicals made from the burning computers, monitors, carpeting, clothing, and bodies that made up the mess at Ground Zero.

This Dust permeated buildings, schools, hallways, ductwork, and worked it's way deep into the lungs of those that were there that day, pushing high levels of carcinogenic chemicals and concrete dust deep into their bodies. Those that worked at Ground Zero over the next three months had to deal with slowly burning jet fuel deep underground and the toxic off-gassing that came with it, breathing in even more chemicals as they worked tirelessly to rescue people and help rebuild our nation.

Not mentioned much outside of New York City, this book offers a very detailed look into the lives that have been affected by the dust cloud. It chronicles the sense of dread that hung over everyone that was there when the towers came down, the feeling of being blind when the dust clouds first hit, and the panic that even the governmental agencies felt as they took stock of the situation.

It was an unprecedented event that no one in government or business had properly prepared for. The sheer number of things that had gone wrong stupefied all the officials who were being pressured for immediate response and to come together with one resolute face to present to the public.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By R. Murphy VINE VOICE on February 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Fast approaching the tenth anniversary of the World Trade Center attack, Anthony DePalma's "City of Dust" gives the reader an incredibly comprehensive look at the tangled history of the ground zero site through a public health and policy lens. This is probably the most nuanced and measured analysis of the health implications and impacts of the Trade Center dust on the first responders and the New York residents that I have ever read. For anyone with an interest in this issue, you will finish this book feeling extremely informed.

That being said, DePalma's book needs a large measure of commitment. Because of all of the different angles he uses to approach the issue and that the reader needs to be informed about, he has used a setup method that involves choosing a representative of a group (for example, the head of the Mt. Sinai medical team) and tracing their actions from 9/11 to about five years or so afterward, to give the reader an understanding of that piece of the puzzle. Then he takes the representative of another group (for example, the head of a Manhatten residents' advocacy group), and does the same thing. Then he'll do it again (Mayor Guilliani) and again (the head doctor for the firefighters) and again (one of the policemen on duty that day) and again (a first responder who worked with a body-sniffing dog). It's all interesting information, but it quickly starts becoming almost a little frustrating to be constantly reset to the beginning. But it is necessary, because after all elements are established DePalma starts weaving them together.

This is an extremely informative book, but it is largely retrospective. I finished it feeling extremely frustrated about the mistakes that were made on all sides, but was left with very little in the way of positive ideas for the future and potential programs.
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