911-Related Health Problems. It has been fifteen years since 9/11, and nearly 40,000 people are suffering from health problems related to the attacks. When the towers fell, they released a hazardous mix of toxins and irritants that included asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), benzene, dioxin, glass fibers, gypsum, cement particles and heavy metals such as lead. In the years that have passed, exposure to the toxic dust has been linked to a number of health conditions including cancer and respiratory illnesses.
According to the World Trade Center Health Program, which provides free medical treatment and monitoring to 9/11 responders and survivors, more than 37,000 people have at least one medical problem related to the attacks. Examples of 9/11-linked illnesses include chronic bronchitis, reactive airway disease syndrome, gastroesophageal reflux disease, sleep apnea and sinusitis.
The Zadroga Act, initially signed into law in 2011, provides medical benefits and compensation to 9/11 responders and survivors. The WTC Health program provides free medical treatment and monitoring at various sites while the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund provides monetary compensation. At the end of last year, the Zadroga Act was reauthorized, funding the WTC Health Program another 75 years and the VCF 5 more years. So far, more than 90 health conditions are considered eligible for compensation under the Zadroga Act.
Asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders and other respiratory conditions are listed. They likely developed as a result of breathing in toxic dust at Ground Zero. The list also contains mental health conditions such as PTSD and anxiety, along with 60 types of cancer.
RESEARCH ON 9/11-LINKED ILLNESSES MOSTLY LOOK AT POPULATIONS OF RESPONDERS.
Research on 9/11-linked illnesses mostly look at populations of responders to see if they have higher rates of diseases compared to the non-exposed population. Last year, the journal Arthritis and Rheumatology published a study showing that responders with longer exposure had a higher risk of immunological diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. However, this illness is not on the list.
As studies continue to emerge, more conditions will be linked to 9/11. For patients whose diseases aren’t covered however, the situation is difficult. “It’s very frustrating for patients who are debilitated by these diseases to get the help they need.” said Dr. Benjamin Luft, director of the Long Island Clinical Center of Excellence for the WTC Health Program.
“The real concern is that there were thousands of toxins that people were exposed to. It would be one thing if you had just one toxin and people were exposed to it,” said Luft to Healthline. “But the different types of chemicals in the air and in the environment were really quite vast. That’s one of the problems, that the different manifestations are so myriad and so broad.”