New York Attorneys Assisting 9/11 Firefighters Harmed By Asbestos
The firefighters who responded to the World Trade Center after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, were focused on saving lives. They had little time to consider what toxic pollutants filled the air or the long-term health effects of the dust they were breathing. Asbestos, a recognized human carcinogen, was among the toxic substances in the dust cloud created by the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. The full impact of exposures at Ground Zero will take years to understand. But an influential study of the health records of more than 10,000 New York firefighters shows that firefighters exposed to the hazardous conditions at Ground Zero were 19 percent more likely to develop cancer than those who did not work there.
Firefighters Diagnosed With Mesothelioma, Asbestos Disease
The emerging pattern of health effects among 9/11 workers convinced a medical advisory panel to recommend adding mesothelioma to the list of cancers and diseases for which firefighters and first responders would be eligible to receive compensation for treatment under federal law. The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, a federal law passed by Congress, provides monitoring and treatment for 9/11-related health problems.
Asbestos was used to insulate the lower half of the first World Trade Center tower.
The dense cloud of smoke and dust created by the collapse of the World Trade Center contained gypsum from wallboard, asbestos, plastics, cement, fibrous glass and metals. Bulk samples of dust collected outside the perimeter of the WTC site on Cortland Street, Cherry Avenue and Market Street in lower Manhattan contained up to 3 percent asbestos by weight, according to the committee’s letter. In all, the dust contained 72 known and potential cancer-causing substances, including asbestos, a known carcinogen, according to the committee.
Inhaled asbestos fibers lodge in the lungs and remain there for months or years, creating irritation and inflammation that can eventually lead to pleural plaques, mesothelioma and lung cancer. Many FDNY firefighters and EMS workers who responded on Sept. 11 and breathed the dust still had abnormal reduced lung function six years later, according to a 2010 study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
A 2012 study published in the British medical journal Lancet analyzed the records of approximately 10,000 NY firefighters and found that firefighters exposed to the hazardous conditions at Ground Zero were 19 percent more likely to develop cancer than those who did not work there. Asbestos-related diseases including malignant pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma typically take decades to appear. Researchers expect to gather more evidence of the correlation between exposure during 9/11 and respiratory diseases in coming years.