Sept. 11th - Who was Exposed?
No one quite knows what was released into the air as the World Trade Center towers burned and eventually collapsed to the ground on September 11, 2001 and in the days that followed. Most agree, however, that enough toxins were found in World Trade Center dust to cause myriad health problems for those in the vicinity.
Since that day in 2001, studies have indicated that more than 100,000 people suffered serious exposure to toxins such as asbestos. A vast majority of those exposed were already reporting respiratory ailments within months - even weeks - of the attacks.
Who is among those at highest risk for developing September 11th-related diseases? Experts say that those most affected by the dust clouds of 9/11 include:
First responders, including police, fire fighters, and EMTs - Most will agree that this is the group of individuals that will be most affected by the clouds of toxins that hovered over them on September 11, 2001. The reason is quite simple. As first responders - those who immediately rushed to the scene before what was happening became clear - these people didn't arrive in Lower Manhattan fully dressed in protective gear. As a matter of fact, most of them wore no protective gear at all or lacked the kind of gear (such as a respirator) that may have kept them from inhaling dangerous asbestos particles and other toxins. Statistics show that about 4,000 first responders may eventually be affected by what they inhaled on that day. An EMT for the New York Fire Department, Deborah Reeve, was the first person linked to the 9/11 tragedy that died of mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer for which asbestos inhalation is the ONLY known cause.
WTC employees - Those who worked in the many offices located on the World Trade Center's 110 floors and survived the tragedy may also be candidates for developing lung diseases caused by asbestos inhalation. Most that made their way out of the burning buildings were still in the vicinity when the towers tumbled and likely breathed in lots of dust from the fires and rubble. Like the first responders, they wouldn't have been wearing any protective gear.
Clean-up Crews - For months, hundreds toiled in the remains of the World Trade Center, working at what was to become known as Ground Zero, removing debris and transporting it to landfills for disposal. Clean-up crews included people of many vocations, such as ironworkers, machine operators and structural engineers. There were also masons, boilermakers, carpenters, electricians, insulation workers, pipefitters, plumbers, sheet metal workers, steamfitters, steelworkers, and truckers. While they were encouraged to wear protective gear, some may have not been in possession of the proper kind of gear necessary to protect them from inhaling asbestos and other toxic substances. Others chose not to wear the cumbersome gear while performing their duties.
Local residents - Because the toxic dust clouds remained over Lower Manhattan for weeks, those who lived in the vicinity of Ground Zero and did not evacuate were most likely subject to inhaling debris on a daily basis. Though residents were encouraged to leave their homes and find shelter elsewhere, at least for a little while, many stoic New Yorkers chose to remain. Many believe that residents who did vacate their properties returned too soon, prompted by a government- issued news release on September 16, 2001 that informed local residents and workers that it was safe to return to New York's Financial District.
More on the World Trade Center, 9/11, and Asbestos
- The History and Construction of the World Trade Center
- The 9/11 Attacks
- Asbestos and 9/11
- Those exposed to asbestos
- The Aftermath & Precautions
Last modified: December 28, 2010.