22 years On, People are Still Struggling from the Aftermath of 9/11

22 years On, People are Still Struggling from the Aftermath of 9/11

This past Tuesday was the 22nd anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the Word Trade Center. Many people died that day, and many people continue to die due to exposure to harmful chemicals. Almost 3,000 people died the day of the attack, but survivors and responders from that day, who spent months inhaling toxic dust, chemicals, fumes, and fibers that made up the debris, continue to die. There are more than 60 types of cancer and two dozen other conditions related to exposure to Ground Zero dust. There have been 4,627 responders and survivors in the World Trade Center Health Program who have died. Since they tally all deaths of people in the program, like accidents and illnesses not associated with 9/11, not all deaths could be related to 9/11.

The WTC Health program has had 112,000 members out of an estimated 410,000 first responders, cleanup crew workers, and survivors exposed to the contaminants. There are also other people who have died from 9/11 related illnesses but were not enrolled in the health program. People near the aftermath can be affected for years since cancers can take years to develop. Around 74 percent of responders in the World Trade Center Health program have at least one physical or mental health problem (20 percent with cancer and 28 percent with mental health condition). The most common conditions include chronic rhinitis and gastroesophageal reflux disease, followed by cancer. Prostate cancer is particularly high among responders because 87 percent of living responders are male. There are also conditions like asthma, sleep apnea, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Long term physical health was a concern among clinicians and health researchers during early years after the attack. It was expected that there would be deaths related to 9/11 long after the attack. The link between 9/11 and a list of chronic health conditions cannot be disputed. Almost half of responders living today have a respiratory or digestive condition related to 9/11, and 16 percent have developed a cancer. Another 16 percent have some type of mental health condition like PTSD, depression, or substance abuse. The WTC covers these conditions in addition to musculoskeletal conditions that developed on or after 9/11.

One of the largest hit groups was New York City Firefighters. FDNY lost 343 people on the day and have lost 200 since the attacks. Nine percent of FDNY veterans of 9/11 have PTSD while 18 percent have depression. During cleanup and rescue, respirators were not available until a week after it began. The average time FDNY employees and retirees spent at the wreckage was three to four months, but some spent the entire time helping to clean up, which was 10 months. Researchers found that the longer someone spent at the site, the higher the chance of respiratory disease.

Now that we mostly understand the effects of the tragedy, doctors’ main goal is to help people improve. Research from the aftermath can help health experts understand  health effects from other human-made and natural disasters.

If you were exposed to a harmful substance like asbestos or benzene and now have cancer, contact us today to see if you could be entitled to compensation. Call 412-471-3980 or fill out our contact form and a member of our team will get back to you as soon as possible.

Tara Haelle, “Health Effects of 9/11 Still Plague Responders and Survivors” Scientific American (September 10, 2021). [Link]

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