The Office of the Mayor of the City of New York has issued a report on the health impacts of the 9/11 attacks. The report is detailed and comprehensive, covering short-, mid- and long-term impacts for fire, police, rescue, and recovery workers, including volunteers and paid workers.
Adverse health effects began to be seen almost immediately after the attacks. Within a week of the attack, 99 percent of exposed firefighters reported respiratory symptoms they had not experienced before. Within the first six months after 9/11, “World Trade Center cough” was diagnosed in 3 percent of firefighters who performed WTC rescue and recovery work and in 8 percent of those present during the collapse of the towers, according to NYC.gov. National law firm Parker Waichman notes the wide range of illnesses that have emerged in the years since the attacks.
Wide Range of 9/11-Related Illnesses
Respiratory symptoms, gastrointestinal symptoms, post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues, cancers (in particular prostate cancer, thyroid cancer and multiple melanoma) have affected first responders, and rescue and recovery workers in greater numbers than for those their age in the general population. In addition to FDNY, NYPD and EMS workers, the workers studied include State Police, National Guard, utility workers, construction workers, sanitation workers, and truck drivers who hauled WTC debris.
The steep—often-disabling—declines in pulmonary function first detected among firefighters and EMS workers within a year of 9/11 have persisted. Among those who never smoked, 13 percent of firefighters and 22 percent of EMS workers had below normal lung function for their ages six years later.
The WTC Health Program, funded under the federal James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act, monitors more than 48,000 police officers, construction workers, volunteer firefighters, utility workers and others who worked or volunteered at Ground Zero. FDNY has its own 9/11 health program, caring for some 16,000 members.
Initial arrival time at the WTC site and the duration of work there are linked to a higher risk of respiratory symptoms. Each additional month of work at Ground Zero increased the likelihood of symptoms by 8 to 11 percent.
Those who were injured in the attack on the World Trade Center—suffering lacerations, broken bones, or burns—had an increased risk of chronic disease five to six years after 9/11. The nearly 2,000 people who reported more than one injury were twice as likely to also report respiratory illness.
An analysis of verified cancer diagnoses among 21,850 rescue and recovery workers enrolled in the WTC Health Registry found increases in three types of cancer—prostate cancer, thyroid cancer and multiple myeloma—in 2007-2008 compared to non-exposed New York State residents during the same period.
The New York State Department of Health found that responders with moderate exposure were more likely to report persistent lower respiratory symptoms (including cough, wheeze, shortness of breath and chest tightness) five years after 9/11. Those with prior asthma and those most exposed to the toxic dust and smoke were more likely to report more serious asthma symptoms, according to NYC.gov.
The prevalence of probable post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among rescue and recovery workers in the WTC Health Registry increased from 12.1 percent two to three years after the attacks to 19.5 percent five to six years after the attacks, meaning that their symptoms worsened between the two time periods. Risk factors for developing probable PTSD among rescue and recovery workers included arrival at the site on 9/11 or working longer than 90 days.
An analysis of FDNY retirement pensions awarded in the seven years prior to 9/11, found that 48 percent of pensions were for accidental disability. In the seven years after 9/11, accidental disability pensions comprised 66 percent of the total, with 47 percent related to the WTC attacks and most were due to respiratory illness. The FDNY study estimated that WTC-related FDNY pensions added $826 million in increased costs to the system.
Although State Police, National Guard, and Department of Transportation workers, arrived later at the WTC site and had less intense exposure to toxic conditions, they reported increased rates of mental and physical health effects, including sleep disturbance, excessive fatigue and irritability. Physical ailments included respiratory symptoms such as dry cough.
An analysis of confirmed cancer cases diagnosed since 9/11 among 20,984 rescue and recovery workers enrolled in the federal WTC Health Program found 15 percent more cancer cases than expected overall. Because cancers can take years to develop after toxic exposure, public health officials expect WTC-related cancer diagnoses for years to come.
Legal Help for Those Suffering 9/11-Related Illnesses
The attorneys at Parker Waichman have worked with and for 9/11 victims in the years since the attacks. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer, respiratory illness or other illness linked to 9/11, please contact Parker Waichman LLP for an evaluation of your situation. To reach the firm, fill out the online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).