The collapse of the World Trade Center Buildings in 2001 released huge clouds of dust and spread airborne pollutants across Manhattan. These pollutants included: diesel exhaust, pulverized cement, glass fibers, asbestos, benzene derivatives, polychlorinated biphenyls and dioxins, polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons and other airborne contaminants. Asbestos, in particular, is known to be a human carcinogen that can cause lung cancer and mesothelioma.
An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 2007 health risk assessment concluded that people exposed to these contaminants during the collapse of the towers and for several hours afterward were “likely to be at risk for acute and potentially chronic respiratory effects.” Up to 70,000 responders suffered the most concentrated exposure, but many thousands of other people who were in the area of the collapse in the days after the disaster were also likely to have inhaled toxic particulates including asbestos.
A 2006 report from Mount Sinai Medical Center warned that the long-term consequences are likely to include late-emerging diseases such as cancer. A more recent study of firefighters who were on the scene on 9/11 highlighted this risk. The firefighters had a higher incidence of all types of cancer.
Mesothelioma, which is caused almost exclusively by asbestos, has a long latency period. This means that the time from asbestos exposure to mesothelioma diagnosis is measured in decades. For example, many sailors who served aboard naval vessels in the 1950’s are being diagnosed with mesothelioma now. Most Navy ships were known to contain high amounts of asbestos and asbestos containing products. This suggests that many of the first responders and other New Yorkers who were near the collapse may be diagnosed with mesothelioma in the decades to come. Mesothelioma is a particularly difficult cancer to treat. Anyone concerned about asbestos exposure and their risk of mesothelioma should consult with their doctor and inquire about what medical monitoring may be available.
For more information about mesothelioma and the mesothelioma risk from 9/11 visit the Surviving Mesothelioma website.