9/11 Asbestos Exposure in the Wake of the Attacks
By Madeline May |
In Part 2 of our 2023 September 11th Blog series, we examine the devastating events of 9/11 that had long-lasting effects on those who were present during the attacks and the aftermath. One of the most significant consequences is the exposure to asbestos, which has led to the development of life-threatening diseases such as mesothelioma and lung cancer among first responders and nearby citizens.
9/11 Asbestos Exposure and Toxins Still Wreak Havoc in New York
It’s heartbreaking to think about how many people were affected by the 911 asbestos exposure, which would occur shortly after the horrific terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001. The spread of asbestos and other toxins, which were used to create the building, was sent airborne, leaving thousands devastated by health issues. Because of this we must continue to raise awareness of this 9/11 asbestos exposure and work towards providing support and resources for those who have been affected.
In the first blog post of this series, titled “Asbestos Use in the World Trade Center Before September 11,” we explored the construction of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers and confirmed that there was asbestos in 9/11. The buildings’ planners used asbestos in the construction due to its strength and fire-resistant properties, but when the towers were hit during the 9/11 attack, asbestos fibers were released into the air. As a result, over 4,000 survivors and first responders have died from 9/11 asbestos exposure, according to the World Trade Center Health Program. Read on to learn about the asbestos exposure that would occur in the aftermath of the attacks on September 11.
New York Environmental Fallout: Asbestos and Toxins Released on 9/11
The September 11, 2001 events, marked by the collapse of the World Trade Center (WTC) towers after a terrorist attack, released a hazardous mix of asbestos, toxic chemicals, and debris into the air, impacting Ground Zero, Lower Manhattan, and beyond. The collapse of the towers released asbestos fibers and toxic materials into the air, exposing nearby residents, workers, and 9/11 first responders to serious health risks, including respiratory issues and cancers. The cloud of dust and contaminants settled on surfaces and entered buildings, extending the exposure. This catastrophe highlighted the long-term health consequences of such exposure and the need for extensive cleanup and health monitoring efforts in the following years.
The collapse of the WTC towers had a cascading effect on nearby buildings and areas. Debris damaged surrounding structures and the dispersal of hazardous materials extended the contamination. The dust settled on surfaces and entered building ventilation systems, leading to ongoing exposure for residents and workers. The attack affected nearby schools, homes, and businesses, and efforts to clean up and decontaminate the area were necessary.
9/11 First Responders Health Impact: Mesothelioma and Respiratory Illnesses
The asbestos fibers released during the collapse posed a significant health risk to those exposed. Inhalation of asbestos fibers can lead to severe respiratory conditions, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. The toxic cocktail of chemicals released from the building materials and contents added to the health concerns.
Many FDNY firefighters, other first responders, and individuals near the collapse developed respiratory issues, such as persistent coughs, shortness of breath, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Cases of ground zero cancers, particularly lung and mesothelioma, are linked to asbestos exposure. The long latency period of these diseases due to 9/11 asbestos exposure means that health effects are still observed years after the event.
The aftermath of 9/11 exposed first responders to a myriad of health challenges beyond asbestos-related illnesses. Mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, also became prevalent among these heroes. Witnessing the horrors of that day and its aftermath took a profound toll on their psychological well-being. The long-lasting impact of these mental health conditions underscore the need for comprehensive support and healthcare services to address the holistic and physical health needs of 9/11 first responders.
What Cancers Are Linked to 9/11?
Many first responders now experience respiratory cancers related to 9/11. Asbestos-related diseases, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis, often exhibit a lengthy latency period. The latency period refers to the time between initial exposure to asbestos fibers and the manifestation of symptoms or diagnosis. This latency period can range from 10 to 50 years or more. The delayed onset of these diseases means that individuals affected by 9/11 asbestos exposure might not experience symptoms or health issues until decades after the exposure. This long latency period poses significant challenges for diagnosing and obtaining appropriate medical care.
Researchers linked numerous cancers to exposure to toxic materials during the 9/11 events, including:
- Blood and lymphoid tissue (lymphoma, myeloma, and leukemia)
- Childhood cancers
- Digestive system (colon and rectum)
- Head and neck (oropharynx and tonsil)
- Rare cancers
- Respiratory (lung and bronchus)
- Skin (melanoma, non-melanoma, and carcinoma in situ)
- Soft and connective tissue
- Urinary system (kidney and bladder)
Supporting New York First Responders and Survivors
Addressing the lasting health impacts of 9/11 asbestos exposure requires robust support and resources. Programs like the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) provide medical care, monitoring, and compensation for responders, survivors, and residents affected by health issues. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducts research. Additionally, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) offers financial assistance. Mental health resources, community organizations, specialized medical centers, and legal aid contribute to comprehensive care and recognition of the challenges those impacted face. Providing such support is vital to help them navigate their long-term lung health journey.
Preparing for the Final Part: The Road to Recovery and Remembrance
In our final installment of the 9/11 Asbestos Exposure and Health Risks Blog series, we will delve into the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer patients and share powerful personal stories of individuals who have courageously fought or passed on from health issues resulting from 9/11 exposure. We will also examine the government’s actions in response to this tragedy, ongoing research initiatives, and the significance of honoring the victims and heroes of September 11. Join us as we continue to shed light on the lasting impact of this historic event.