After the World Trade Centre events that occurred on September 11, 2001, a massive cloud of smoke, dust, and debris permeated New York City with asbestos fibers and other toxic substances. It is estimated by the World Trader Center Health Registry that about 410,000 people were exposed to these toxins following the attacks.
The people most exposed by asbestos at Ground Zero were those assigned to rescue survivors, while search and rescue workers and others who helped clean up the debris for months also suffered asbestos exposure, raising questions over the use of asbestos in building the towers in the first place.
Controversy Over The Use Of Asbestos To Build Twin Towers
During the construction of the towers in 1966, this toxic substance was already raising concerns, and by the time the construction of the North Tower was well underway in 1971, the builders had been forced to stop their work because a ban on the material was expected to come into play in the near future. It proved to be a sensitive subject nonetheless, as many asbestos-containing products had already made their way into both towers. But these products were never discussed in relation to health concerns until after the 9/11 attacks.
It was then that these products finally raised health concerns, as fireproofing materials from 20 stories of the towers fell upon the city. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that the implosions of the towers “pulverized asbestos to ultra-fine particles” that covered Lower Manhattan.
Asbestos Health Concerns Following The 9/11 Attacks
Exposure to asbestos can result in life-threatening illnesses like mesothelioma and asbestosis, symptoms for both of which can take between 20 to 50 years to emerge. However, in 2006, only five years after exposure to the toxic debris from Ground Zero, an emergency responder from 9/11 died of mesothelioma, while another worker developed a serious cough only two years after the attacks that led to her death in 2004 of the same illness.
One can only imagine that these two cases are, unfortunately, not the last, as experts predict that a larger number of 9/11 responders will be diagnosed with these illnesses in the coming years. The severity of the situation becomes more clear when we consider that many of these first responders were not given proper equipment to protect themselves from the airborne contaminants. In fact, almost 70 percent of recovery personnel have since suffered from lung problems.
How The First Responders Were Compensated
As a result of the many health conditions which arose following the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government passed the “James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act” to give people medical care and monitoring. The original terms of the act only offered compensation from 2011 to 2016, but in 2015, Congress voted to reauthorize the program, which extends the coverage for another 75 years.
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The Lawsuits That Followed
Many of the tens of thousands of people affected by the 9/11 attacks have filed lawsuits to seek monetary compensation in relation to developing serious respiratory illnesses and several types of cancer as a result of breathing in the toxic dust and smoke. In 2010, for instance, 10,000 rescue and recovery workers who claimed they were injured by the dust opted to benefit from a $713 million court settlement from WTC Captive Insurance Co. Inc.
One of the issues that arose during these lawsuits was the inability to find scientific evidence that linked the dust from 9/11 to the development of cancer, but fortunately for the many victims, a 2011 study changed that. The study, which involved firefighters exposed to World Trade Center dust, discovered that this group was 19 percent more likely to develop cancer as a result of their exposure compared to anyone else in the general population who was not affected. Prior to these findings, under the Zadroga Act, compensation was not provided to those who claimed to have developed cancer as a result of the attacks, but now people with cancer can file a 9/11 lawsuit for their cancers, many of which include melanoma, thyroid cancer, prostate cancer, and blood cell cancers like leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.
Asbestos-related cancers, however, are still slow to develop, but because symptoms of mesothelioma and lung cancer may come years later, more lawsuits are expected in the years to come. Dr. Craig Stevens, a former staff member at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, predicts that the number of cases related to these specific cancers will peak by 2041.
Responses From First Responders And NYC Residents
A thread of comments from NYC residents and first responders continues to grow, revealing how they were affected by the airborne toxins from the 9/11 attacks.
“That awful smell was so pervasive and lasted several months, until January at least. I kept my windows locked shut and burned incense because air freshener and candles did nothing. I live 15 blocks north of Chambers, and I had a constant headache too,” one Reddit user wrote. “Even with the windows shut, my apartment had so much more dust than ever before. I remember when my parents asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I asked for a vacuum cleaner because I couldn’t stay on top of the dust situation any longer.”
“About a year after the attacks i was first screened by WTC screening at Mt Sinai they brought a bunch of us (first responders/ union workers – who were exposed) into a room and told us that we were exposed to heavy metals and it was highly likely that we would develop cancer,” another Reddit user wrote. “My lungs were shot for two years with bad asthma – im lucky to have it under control for now.. Big thank you to Jon Stewart for getting our backs- i owe him.”
“I work in a pharmacy and we have a customer who was a volunteer fireman during 9/11. The amount of medications he needs to take every day is unbelievable,” another user wrote on the thread. “He has the most horrid cough, and says in the morning it’s all black mucous. He was just diagnosed with a form of lung cancer a couple months ago and it’s really heartbreaking. Good news being the WTC has a medical and prescription aid program for people who helped during the attacks and the prescriptions are completely covered. Almost 3,000 dollars a month worth…”
Given the nature of what occurred on 9/11, the unanswered questions, the evidence that states the official story is not what we have been told, one has to face the uncomfortable truth about how much damage was done to people for something that involved so much conspiracy and potential hidden agendas.
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