Time Can’t Heal Everything: 9/11 First Responders Still Developing Cancers at an Alarming Rate
Almost sixteen years have passed since the cleanup work at Ground Zero officially ended, yet the devastating impact on those exposed to the toxins endures. Researchers have been studying the physical effects of running directly into, and not away from, one of the largest urban rescue and recovery efforts in history. First responders operated in the epicenter of the disaster, where the very worst exposures occurred. They were exposed to glass, lead, mercury, asbestos, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, crystalline silica, metals, dioxins, furans, and other particulates, to name a few. The wildly toxic dust contained more than 2,500 contaminants, and fires burned at ground zero for months.
Two new studies published in April of 2018 in the JAMA Oncology journal found that first responders who worked at the WTC site from September 11, 2001 to July 25, 2002 (the day the rescue, recovery, and cleanup efforts officially ended) were exposed to unprecedented environmental toxins and, as a result, have increased risk of developing a variety of cancers, including prostate and thyroid cancer, melanoma, and multiple myeloma.
The first study found that New York City Fire Department employees who worked at Ground Zero are expected to develop cancer at a greater rate than their fellow New Yorkers. The study conducted by the FDNY’s Bureau of Health Services and Office of Medical Affairs compared data on firefighters who worked at Ground Zero with data from a cancer registry of New York residents. Based on their actual cancer incidence through the end of 2011, the 12,374 firefighters were on track to be diagnosed with 2,714 cancers between the start of 2012 and the end of 2031. If those firefighters got cancer at the same rate as other men in New York City they would expect to be diagnosed with only 2,596 cancers during that 20-year period. The additional 118 instances of cancer is too large to be due to chance!
The second study found that New York City firefighters appeared to be developing aggressive forms of multiple myeloma at younger ages. The lead author of the study, Dr. Ola Landgren, chief of the Myeloma Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, said that “the age of onset is about 10 to 15 years earlier than the general population,” and that tumors in those patients showed “features of more aggressive biology” than compared with the general population. Researchers believe that the chemicals 9/11 responders were exposed to make the disease more aggressive.
Researchers concluded that firefighters and others who put their health on the line should be required to use “appropriate protective equipment,” and, when possible, limit “the amount of time workers can spend at disaster sites.”
Here at Barasch McGarry we want to reinforce these studies’ findings and urge not just firefighters, but all of those exposed to the toxins on 9/11 and the months following to continue to monitor your health– early detection is the best medicine! Make an appointment with the WTC Health Program today!