An astonishing 40,000 people currently have chronic health conditions linked to 9/11, including thousands with respiratory illnesses and mental health issues, says Dr. Michael Crane, who directs the World Trade Center Health Program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in Manhattan.
This includes 10,000 people who have developed various cancers associated with exposure to the toxins, with 50 to 80 new cases of cancers associated with 9/11 toxins certified each month.
According to Forbes, 241 NYPD officers have now died in the 18 years since the attacks – 10 times the number killed on 9/11 when 23 lost their lives.
According to a 2017 study, at least 74 firefighters with the FDNY who worked at the World Trade Center site have contracted sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease that affects multiple organs in the body, but mostly the lungs and lymph glands.
In people with sarcoidosis, abnormal masses or nodules (called granulomas) consisting of inflamed tissues form in certain organs of the body.
The Ground Zero site contained dust that held heavy metals and asbestos, among other hazards. Over time, those irritants can produce scarring, or fibrosis, in the lungs, impeding their ability to breathe and absorb oxygen.
The abnormal scarring response is irreversible, and the severity of its effect varies widely from person to person. Some people will never develop fibrosis, while others develop progressive scarring that continues to worsen over time.
Many are living lives of disability and facing an uncertain future. Dr John Howard, Administrator of the World Trade Center Health program said in a news release: “The program serves over 80,000 people through our Clinical Centers of Excellence (CCE) in New York and New Jersey, and across the country through the Nationwide Provider Network (NPN). Last year over 5,000 people enrolled in the Program.”
According to the LA Times, researchers estimate that the choking dust that coated the ground zero recovery site — and persisted in the air for days afterward — contained a hazardous mix of airborne particles, including aluminum, asbestos, glass and the remnants of burned jet fuel. Similar hazards affected workers at the Pentagon and the Shanksville, Pa., crash site where the hijacked United Flight 93 was brought down.
Scientists studying exposure to those airborne hazards have linked them to lung disease, asthma and cancer, and the federal government has taken steps in recent years to help tackle these lasting health challenges.
The majority of enrollees in the federal program suffer from breathing-related issues, mental health complications or cancer. Yet the program covers a wide array of challenges that arise in the wake of trauma, including asthma, post-traumatic stress disorder, and lower back pain.
The aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 still follows us today, not only in the way our nation’s security has increased, or the memory of those we lost in the air and on the ground, but especially for those that were at Ground Zero during and for many months following the disaster.
2,996 people were killed on that fateful day, and over 6,000 people were wounded, but the death toll continues to climb due to cancers, respiratory diseases, and other illnesses related to exposure to contaminants from 9/11.
Thanks to those who fought for the renewal of the Zaragoda Act, the surviving heroes have some support with their own health battles now.