The number of people who have died from cancers related to the attacks on the World Trade Center in the aftermath of 9/11 is approaching 10,000, according to the Federal World Trade Center Health Program, established in 2010 to provide medical benefits to some individuals affected by the terrorist attacks.
The 9/11 terrorist attacks killed 2,606 people, not counting those onboard the airplanes that crashed into the towers. Among the dead were more than 1,700 responders. However, “9/11 is still killing,” says WTC responders advocate John Feal.
According to a New York Post report, 9795 first responders, workers and residents in lower Manhattan at the time the 110-story towers fell have developed cancer deemed related to 9/11, 420 of whom have died.
The types of cancers vary. For example, at least 15 men who were at or near Ground Zero on 9/11 – including five first responders, two New York City firefighters, and a New York Police Department sergeant – have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
The World Trade Center towers were built from 1968 to 1973. At the time, asbestos was widely used in building materials like insulation and floor tiles. When researchers connected the inhalation and ingestion of the microscopic asbestos fibers to serious diseases like chronic lung ailments, various cancers, and mesothelioma, a rare but deadly form of cancer, the use of asbestos was largely restricted in the United States.
According to an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report from 2003, a quarter of the air samples taken of the acrid miasma that covered Manhattan and Brooklyn in the aftermath of 9/11 showed dangerous levels of asbestos.
The EPA also reported that the towers continued to smolder for four months after they collapsed, emanating a host of toxic fumes. “The debris pile acted like a chemical factory,” said Thomas Cahill, a University of California-Davis professor emeritus of physics and atmospheric science and research professor in engineering in a 2003 study. “It cooked together the components of the buildings and their contents, including enormous numbers of computers, and gave off gasses of toxic metals, acids, and organics for at least six weeks.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) World Trade Center Health Program identifies dozens of mental and physical injuries and diseases, including mesothelioma, among its list of conditions that have been determined to be caused by exposure to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. For those who qualify, medical costs are covered. The CDC updates the list regularly as it learns more information about 9/11 exposure and its effects on health.