Thousands of First Responders Affected by 9/11 Toxic Exposures

16 years after the terrorist attacks on Sept 11, 2001, the list of the fallen continues to grow as police officers, firefighters, first responders and recovery workers succumb to illnesses linked to their work in the aftermath of the attacks.

Thousands of first responders and rescue workers are battling diseases that doctors with the World Trade Center Health Program have associated with exposure to toxic fumes and dust at Ground Zero.

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.

By August of this year, the fund had granted eligibility to more than 17,000 claims out of more than 30,000 filed, and had paid out more than $3 billion in compensation, more than the $2.7 billion Congress originally approved in 2011.

Claims covered responders at all three sites as well as people living and working in lower Manhattan at the time of the attack.