9/11 Illnesses After the Attacks – Asbestos Exposure and Other Toxins
As we reflect on the events of September 11th, today marks another solemn anniversary of the tragic day that reshaped the world. On this day, we remember the lives lost and the indomitable spirit of resilience that emerged from the ashes of Ground Zero. It serves as a poignant reminder of the enduring importance of unity, compassion, and vigilance in the face of adversity and ongoing health problems. In the previous segments of this blog series, we delved into the perilous materials used to construct the World Trade Center and the corresponding 9/11 illnesses caused by asbestos to first responders and the residents residing near Ground Zero and the surrounding area. One such hazardous substance was asbestos, chosen for its fire-resistant qualities, but ultimately released into the atmosphere during the towers’ collapse.
This led to the dispersion of 911 asbestos fibers throughout the extensive dust cloud that extended over three miles in radius. Remarkably, this noxious cloud journeyed more than 45 miles across Manhattan, reaching as far as Brooklyn, inflicting immediate respiratory and visual impairments upon those exposed. Tragically, the repercussions of this dust cloud continue to persist until today. Alarming statistics exemplify the gravity of this situation. Research reveals that cases of 9/11-related cancers among responders surged by over 1,000%, escalating from 1,870 confirmed cases in 2013 to a staggering 20,612 in 2020. In this final part of our blog series, we will elucidate how survivors and first responders can access the necessary coverage and delve deeper into the enduring health consequences stemming from the events of 9/11.
9/11 Illnesses: The Lingering Health Consequences
According to the CDC, 58% of the 104,223 members enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program, a federal benefits plan for survivors and responders, were diagnosed with at least one WTC illness. There are various illnesses associated with responders and survivors of 9/11. However, the WTC Health Program certifies four member health conditions, both for those still alive and those with family members who have passed away. These four approved conditions are Aerodigestive, Cancer, Mental Health, Musculoskeletal, and Acute Traumatic Injuries. However, it should be noted that people may suffer from other illnesses not covered by the program.
It is crucial to comprehensively understand the potential lingering lung health effects and difficulties that survivors, first responders, and nearby residents may encounter. By doing so, we can better equip ourselves to provide appropriate support and care for those affected. Moreover, the long-term impact of these WTC-related illnesses extends beyond physical health, encompassing significant emotional and psychological burdens for those affected. Many individuals continue to grapple with the trauma and mental health challenges stemming from their experiences on that fateful day. Additionally, while the WTC Health Program addresses several health conditions, the complexity of 9/11-related illnesses means that some individuals may face unmet healthcare needs, emphasizing the ongoing importance of research, advocacy, and support for this resilient community.
The Government’s 9/11 Illnesses Response and Ongoing Support
In response to the ongoing health consequences of 9/11, the federal government set up the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program, which is administered by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The program caters to more than 110,000 individuals who responded to or survived the 9/11 attacks. It offers free treatment for certified health conditions related to the World Trade Center incident. Moreover, the program supports research on the population exposed to 9/11 to enhance healthcare for those affected by 9/11 illnesses.
The US government established the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund to assist individuals and their families affected by the attacks on the World Trade Center. The 9/11 cancer fund also provides aid to those who participated in the cleanup efforts following the tragedies. It is essential to continue supporting those affected by the aftermath of the attacks. It is important that we provide assistance, resources, and cancer victim legal compensation in any way we can to help recover treatment funds and move forward.
Furthermore, the commitment of the US government to the well-being of those impacted by 9/11 illnesses extends to the establishment of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which serves as a lifeline for individuals and their families facing the financial burdens resulting from the attacks. In parallel, the 9/11 cancer fund stands as a testament to our collective responsibility to aid those who selflessly participated in the cleanup efforts amid the tragedy’s aftermath. As we remember this solemn day, let us reaffirm our dedication to offering unwavering support, resources, and settlement compensation to those affected, allowing them to heal, rebuild, and find solace in the face of enduring challenges.
WTC Health Program Covered Conditions and Diseases
It’s important to note that the program’s scope primarily includes conditions directly linked to the 9/11 attacks, such as respiratory ailments, cancers, mental health disorders, and musculoskeletal injuries. However, the evolving nature of these illnesses underscores the need for ongoing research, medical advancements, and legislative support to address emerging health concerns in this dedicated community. As we continue to navigate the lasting repercussions of 9/11, we must remain vigilant in broadening the program’s coverage to meet the evolving health challenges faced by those who selflessly responded on that tragic day. The WTC Health Program has evolved to meet the ongoing needs of first responders and survivors of the 9/11 attack, but it only covers certain conditions and diseases:
Acute Traumatic Injuries
- Complex Sprain
- Eye Injury
- Head Trauma
- Tendon Tear
Airway and Digestive Disorders
- Cough Syndrome
- Chronic Rhinosinusitis
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD)
- Interstitial Lung Disease
- New-onset and WTC-Exacerbated Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Reactive Airway Dysfunction Syndrome (RADS)
- Respiratory Disorder
- Sleep Apnea
- Upper Airways Hyperreactivity
- Blood and Lymphoid Tissue (Including Lymphoma, Myeloma, and Leukemia)
- Childhood Cancers
- Digestive System (Including Colon and Rectum)
- Eye and Orbit
- Head and Neck (Oropharynx and Tonsil)
- Rare Cancers
- Respiratory System (Including Lung and Bronchus)
- Skin (Including Melanoma, Non-Melanoma, and Carcinoma in situ)
- Soft and Connective Tissue
- Urinary System (Including Kidney and Bladder)
Mental Health Conditions
- Acute Stress Disorder
- Adjustment Disorder
- Anxiety Disorders
- Dysthymic Disorder
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Major Depressive Disorder
- Panic Disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Substance Use Disorder
Musculoskeletal Disorders (Applies to WTC Responders Only)
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)
- Low Back Pain
- Other Musculoskeletal Disorders
To be covered by the program, 9/11 illnesses must be certified by the WTC Health Program and treated through a Program-affiliated provider. Certification is an official decision by the program that your situation relates to your 9/11 exposure and meets program certification policies and criteria. If you are not a current member but believe you may be eligible, visit the CDC’s application. If you are experiencing a mesothelioma diagnosis or symptoms, you may be eligible for an upcoming diagnosis and compensation.
Honoring the Fallen: Remembering 9/11 Heroes and Victims
The tragic events of September 11, 2001, continue to resonate in our memory. This fateful day claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 individuals, leaving behind a legacy of sorrow, resilience, and 9/11 illnesses that still afflict survivors and first responders to this day. In our commitment to never forget, a multitude of memorial initiatives and events have emerged, serving as poignant reminders of the indomitable spirit that arose from the ashes. These include the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, which stands as a solemn tribute to those we lost, annual commemorations that bring communities together in remembrance, the Flight 93 National Memorial, a symbol of heroism, and the Pentagon Memorial, a place of reflection and solace.
Beyond these physical memorials, community engagement and education have become indispensable tools in ensuring that the legacy of 9/11 remains vividly alive in the hearts and minds of future generations. By supporting organizations dedicated to aiding first responders battling 9/11 illnesses and by actively participating in community service, we pay homage to the sacrifices of these heroes and victims. In remembering 9/11, we honor those we lost and acknowledge the ways we still need to go to prevent those heroes from irreversible and complicated health problems later in life.
Moving Forward: Advocating for Awareness and Continued Research
Advocating for the continuous advancement of research in cancer treatment and prevention remains vital to ensuring a healthier future for those affected. By actively supporting organizations and initiatives dedicated to this cause, we can collectively make a significant impact. It’s imperative to acknowledge the persistent health challenges and respiratory issues faced by many 9/11 survivors, first responders, and recovery workers who were exposed to toxic dust and chemicals in the aftermath of the attack. Countless individuals continue to grapple with 9/11 illnesses, including mesothelioma and lung cancer, and it’s crucial to raise awareness about these health concerns. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms related to these illnesses, please do not hesitate to contact us for support and guidance.