When we think of September 11th and bow our heads to remember the tragedy, we don’t generally think of asbestos disease victims or those who may yet be diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. But the truth is that there are more than 60,000 police officers, firefighters, first responders and recovery workers who spent days, weeks and months breathing in asbestos dust at the site where the World Trade Towers stood, and each one of them is at risk for mesothelioma and other serious diseases.
The World Trade Center Health Program was specifically set up to provide medical treatment for those who were impacted by the attacks, and it is unknown how many of the 89,000 people who have already signed up will be diagnosed with an asbestos disease, but all of them are at risk. The towers were constructed with asbestos, and when they fell they left a cloud of dust that hovered over New York City for weeks. Even after the air cleared, the asbestos fibers coated the rubble that was left behind, and as recovery workers struggled to clear the site they were constantly at risk of ingesting or inhaling them.
Mesothelioma and Asbestos Disease Are an Easily Forgotten Part of the 9/11 Legacy
According to Ben Chevat, the executive director of a nonprofit watchdog group called 9/11 Health Watch that advocates for responders and victims, the people who worked to find victims, recover bodies and return the city to normalcy are often forgotten. “People in America know the story of 9/11,” he says. “What’s really not well known or understood are the challenges facing so many this day.”
Those challenges have already been seen in roughly 1,300 deaths in the last few years, with many more illnesses expected to be diagnosed in the future. September 11 responders have been diagnosed with numerous breathing problems, with cancer, and with emotional problems as well. Those who work with them every day are expressing strong concern about the future. John Feal heads a nonprofit called the FealGood Foundation, and he is particularly concerned about the number of asbestos-related diseases that are likely to begin being diagnosed in the next several years. “The reality is that more and more people are getting sick and dying.”