About 40,000 people have chronic medical conditions that are linked with the 9/11 terrorist attacks, including issues related to mental health and respiratory illnesses. Cancer is a common occurrence amongst first responders, tradesmen, police officers, and firefighters who were at Ground Zero. The toxic dust from the fallen buildings continues to claim lives every single day.
Health Effects Arising from the September 11 Attacks
In this article, we’ll pay tribute to the many heroes of 9/11 who rushed to the aid of civilians and service workers during the attacks and continued to clean up or live in the area months after.
Five months after the attacks, residents living around the Financial District of Lower Manhattan increasingly went to the doctor for respiratory problems. Checo, who spent six months cleaning the dust from Ground Zero, told People he was diagnosed 5 years later with lung tissue scarring. He frequently loses his voice and has to carry a pen and paper to communicate.
At least 74 firefighters with the FDNY have sarcoidosis, a rare disease caused by the growth of small collections of inflammatory cells in any part of the body. Micheal O’Connell, a firefighter who was present at the 9/11 attacks, suffers from sarcoidosis in his lungs and lymph nodes.
A study of 5,000 rescue workers published by Dr. David J. Prezant concluded that all workers studied had impaired lung functions of an average of 10%. Firefighters who arrived on September 11 had worst impairments, which showed up a year after the attack. ⅕ of the group were on permanent respiratory disability, and 30-40% of workers had persistent symptoms.
Citizens like Checo and Michael often slip through the cracks. The majority of first responders don’t have health insurance or plans that cover their medical needs. Many cannot work without feeling extreme fatigue or suffering from a symptom of their individual conditions.
Cancers from Toxic Dust
10,000 of the 40,000 confirmed first responders who developed a health condition from the attacks have 9/11 related cancers caused by the toxins surrounding Ground Zero. The toxic dust, which contained over 25,000 contaminates, was breathed in by locals for several months.
Dr. Michael Crane from the World Trade Center Health Program told Newsweek that the burning jet fuel, metal, plastic, fiberglass, and asbestos was indeed toxic enough to cause multiple health issues, including cancer. Vito Olivia, a retired New York City police officer, got prostate cancer, stomach lymphoma and knew four NYPD officers personally who died from cancer.
The Journal of the American Medical Association found that prolonged exposure to toxic dust caused a significant rise in thyroid cancer, prostate cancer, and multiple myeloma. Several recovery workers have been diagnosed with blood cell cancers, which doctors confirmed were caused by 9/11. Male breast cancer is common amongst NYPD officers present at the attacks.
Lasting Psychological Effects
Although the psychological effects pertaining to 9/11 aren’t well researched, many first responders have expressed the prolonged adverse impact the attack had on their mental health. First responders and on-lookers reported watching people burn to death, be crushed, or trapped, jumping out of the two towers, and witnessed severely injured or bloodied civilians.
PTSD is the most prevalent of mental health disorders among first responders. A study conducted 10 months after the attack showed that 60% of households were deeply affected by the attacks, 11.2% of which had prevailing PTSD, depression, anxiety, and paranoia.
Deaths From Disease Will Outnumber Those Lost on 9/11
As of 2018, over 2,000 first responders lost their lives due to 9/11 related illnesses. Thousands of people have cancer, lung issues, and the psychological effects that persist after 9/11. Most first responders are in their 50s, and although that is the average age for humans to receive a cancer diagnosis, first responders are 30% more likely to have cancer.