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Who Are the 18,000 People Suffering from 9/11 Toxic Dust Exposure?

October 18, 2013 | Michael Barasch

When the world learned that nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks on September 11, 2001, it was shocking beyond words. But in the dozen years since, a slowly unfolding second phase of the disaster suggests the true number of casualties might increase well beyond that.

It’s a sad story of how good deeds do not necessarily bring the best rewards. There were at least 60,000 first responders who rushed to Ground Zero from surrounding states — Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, in addition to New Yorkers from within and outside Manhattan — who were likely exposed to the thick cloud of dust and smoke from the fallen World Trade Center (WTC) towers. In addition, thousands of paid workers and volunteers were involved in support functions and debris cleanup, including custodial workers who swept homes, offices and ventilation systems and residents and office workers in Lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn.

Even people who worked on barges that hauled the debris to the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island may have been exposed to the fine airborne particulates. This was matter from two of the world’s tallest buildings, filled with cement, gypsum, fiberglass insulation, computers, lighting systems, metal and carpeting. Analysis shows that asbestos, lead, copper, mercury, antimony and zinc were present in that dust, and many workers were not equipped with protective facemasks. According to a story in 2011 by the British Broadcasting Company, at least 18,000 people already suffer from illnesses linked to 9/11. The article quotes several unsettling observations by public health officials:

  • “Thousands of World Trade Center responders have developed chronic, disabling illnesses as a result of their horrific exposures.”
  • “Occupational medicine physicians have now learned that, for many responders, WTC-related physical and mental conditions are likely to be permanent.”
  • “New patients are still being seen who haven’t been evaluated before or treated.”

Fortunately, the federal Zadroga Act of 2010 provides funding for testing and treatment of those affected. An experienced 9/11 WTC attorney can help the injured learn if they are eligible for healthcare services provided by this legislation.

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