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9/11 – Ten Years Later. Are We Feeling The Effects of Asbestos Exposure?

TWIN TOWERS.png It has been ten years since all of America witnessed the Catastrophic events of September 11th. Two commercial airline 767 jets were taken control of and flown directly into the twin tower buildings in Lower Manhattan, New York City, New York.

The twin towers rose an amazing 110 stories and, at over 1360 feet each, were the tallest buildings in the world at the time of their construction in the early 1970s. The two mammoth buildings came down in a torrential down-pour of dust. The Estimates of the actual amount of asbestos in the air after September 11th range from several hundred tons to five thousand tons. Witnesses say that the asbestos that was found in homes, offices, and other facilities following the attacks was at dangerously high levels. Reports say that most of the asbestos that insulated the World Trade Center towers came from Libby, Montana. The Libby mines are a location that has a long history of asbestos exposure and asbestos-related illnesses.

More than 4,000 “first responders” (emergency response workers) were at the World Trade Center (WTC) towers within hours of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The same is true of the Pentagon attack the same day. About 12,100 firefighters and other related personnel were exposed to asbestos and other dangerous chemicals during the recovery process after the attacks. Nearly 350 of those workers have developed a cough known as “The World Trade Center Cough.” Some have even taken up to two months leave from work because of the severity of their condition. As of one year after the attacks, 52% of those workers have improved partially and remained on leave, light work, or have filed for early retirement. The other 48% have improved and have returned to their duties.



It was eventually confirmed that about three-quarters of the WTC emergency response workers developed respiratory problems — no doubt from the asbestos and other toxins they had been exposed to at the site. In fact, an emergency response worker with the New York Fire Department who worked at the WTC site died of mesothelioma cancer in 2006.

The only confirmed cause of mesothelioma cancer is asbestos exposure. Asbestos fibers, once inhaled, lodge themselves in the lungs and other organs and lead to serious, potentially fatal illnesses like mesothelioma cancer. Asbestos cancer diseases may take decades to manifest themselves after the asbestos exposure.

Deborah Reeve was the first 9/11 emergency responder to die of mesothelioma. She worked as a paramedic for the Fire Department of New York. Reeve began having symptoms of severe lung disease in early 2003 and was diagnosed with the asbestos-caused cancer in 2004. She succumbed to the disease in March 2006. Doctors agree that her exposure to asbestos was a result of her days spent working at the recovery site.

NYC FIRE HELMUT SMALL.pngIn September 2006 a study of 9,500 first responders conducted by the Mount Sinai Medical Center showed that 70 percent of those surveyed had new or worsened respiratory problems with one third of those surveyed having abnormal pulmonary function. The study was able to correlate that responders who arrived first at the scene had the most frequent respiratory problems. One responder described the air as being “as thick as pea soup” and no one knows what the actual composition of the air was because the earliest monitoring/testing did not occur until a week after the attack when airborne materials were able to settle.

In early January 2008, the New York State Department of Health estimated that approximately 200 people had died as a result of the pollutants or other problems at Ground Zero. At least 55 of those had been victims of lung cancer. A whopping 62% of those exposed to the dust and contaminants resulting from the attacks have reported experiencing respiratory problems.

The latency period for asbestos related illnesses is anywhere from 10 to 50 years. It takes anywhere from 10 or as much as 50 years after the first exposure to asbestos for individuals to develop asbestosis or an asbestos related condition. Recent cases of asbestosis among emergency workers who responded to the 9-11 attacks have proven that the disease can develop much more quickly if exposure is at intense levels. We have only just reached the ten year point. We have only just begun to see the effects that asbestos exposure from the 9/11 attacks have created. The statistics today, on this anniversary of tragedy, are startling and saddening. They can only get MORE severe from here.

New York ranks third in asbestos related deaths.
New York Stats.xlsx.