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The Long-term Impact of 9/11 on New Yorkers’ Health Is Still Unclear

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Even though it’s been more than 15 years since the terror attacks on the World Trade Center, it’s important to remember we are still in the “morning after” stage of what will be a long health ordeal. As former NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley stated in 2012, “Cancers take 20 years to develop…and we might see something different 20 years down the line.” Already we have seen elevated rates of cancer, such as thyroid, prostate, and skin cancer, among 9/11 responders and rescue workers. But as a recent article in New York magazine points out, we don’t have a clear picture of the impact of 9/11 on civilian health, and a crisis among that population may be the next stage of the calamity.

In the wake of the attacks, there was great pressure for a return to normality, and EPA Chief Christie Todd Whitman and NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani have both faced fierce criticism for their faulty assurances. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control estimates 400,000 people were exposed to a toxic cloud of dust and debris as well as indoor dust and fumes from persistent fires. There’s been ample coverage of the Ground Zero cleanup, but little has been said about the unprofessional manner in which WTC dust — containing construction materials, leaded and unleaded paint, glass fibers, metals, and asbestos — was cleaned up in lower Manhattan. The NYC Department of Health delegated responsibility for asbestos removal to landlords and residents “in direct violation of city, state, and federal laws and at an enormous potential health risk.”

What is happening to exposed civilians? It is very difficult to say. As of June 2016, only 74,968 people had enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program, established under the Zadroga Act, to monitor and treat health problems arising from 9/11. The bulk of the enrollees (56,580) are FDNY, NYPD and other responders. However, only 8,881 civilians have enrolled. This could mean that hundreds of thousands of people are unwittingly suffering from 9/11-related illnesses and not receiving the care they need and deserve.

If you were exposed to Ground Zero toxicity in the wake of 9/11, learn about your rights to health screenings and treatment. Contact the experienced attorneys at Barasch, McGarry, Salzman & Penson who have represented 9/11 survivors from the outset. Call 888.351.9421 or contact our office online.

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