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9/11 Injuries

Firefighters More Susceptible to Cancer than Most

April 16, 2015 | Michael Barasch

There are many inherent dangers to being a firefighter. Burns, falling beams, collapsing structures and inhalation of smoke and fumes are all common dangers that they must face and overcome. Some dangers of the position lie hidden for years, however. There is a lot of research that suggests that firefighters are more susceptible to cancer than most of the general population. Lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses are common among firefighters, even if they’ve never smoked a day in their lives, because they’ve spent so much time around smoke and flames.

However, with the sheer number of firefighters that worked and, during their days off volunteered at Ground Zero after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, it should therefore be no surprise that a significant percentage of them have since been diagnosed with cancer.  In fact, according to the FDNY’s Bureau of Health Services, cancer among NYC firefighters has increased 20% since 9/11/01.

For one, the amount of smoke that firefighters inhale because of burning buildings and debris means that their lungs are likely inhaling numerous carcinogens and other harmful substances. A lot of buildings are built with synthetic materials that become toxic as soon as they start to burn. Slightly older buildings are even more deadly, with asbestos once having been a common fire retardant used in buildings. In fact,asbestos was sprayed in many areas of the WTCs when they were constructed in the 1970’s.  While asbestosis has not officially been linked to the toxins at Ground Zero, many in the medical community are worried that it may become another cancer that soon manifests.  Generally, asbestosis has a 15 year latency period after exposure.  The small pieces of asbestos attach themselves to a person’s lungs and cause a buildup of scar tissue, making it difficult to breathe. Hopefully, we will not see an outbreak of WTC-linked asbestosis.

While firefighters now have some high-tech self-contained breathing apparatuses, these are not necessarily enough to ensure that they will never suffer any health problems as a result of the work that they do.  SCBA’s only have enough air for 17-20 minutes. 

If you or a loved one worked as a firefighter in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and developed health problems as a result, you may be eligible to receive compensation. Meet with a skilled New York attorney at Barasch, McGarry, Salzman & Penson for the information and guidance you need.

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