Increased Cancer Risk for 9/11 First Responders, Says Study

As the nation prepares to reflect upon the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a new report suggests a link between exposure to toxic chemicals released after New York’s World Trade Center collapsed and the development of cancer in firefighters who toiled at ground zero.

The study, released in the British medical journal The Lancet, found that 9/11 firefighters are 19 percent more likely to develop cancer than those who were not at the Trade Center wreckage, according to The New York Times.

Study leader Dr. David J. Prezant said the findings indicate an “increased likelihood for the development of any type of cancer” but noted that they were far from conclusive.

Toxic substances found at the site of the 9/11 attacks, such as asbestos and jet fuel, can trigger diseases that may take decades to develop, such as mesothelioma.

A portion of New York City was covered by a cloud of fine powder after the towers fell. A study released after the terrorist attacks by the Virginia firm HP Environmental reported that the powder creating this toxic cloud contained asbestos. In fact, the asbestos particles were so pulverized in the explosion that most were smaller than what could be detected by the EPA’s standard testing method. After adjusting the test to check smaller fiber concentrations, the study concluded that there was an “overwhelming concentration” of the ultrafine asbestos particles.

The 9/11 first responders, including firefighters, police, and other emergency personnel, “were exposed to a whole soup of carcinogens,” said Dr. Philip J. Landrigan of. Dr. Landrigan is the director of environmental and occupational medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan and a leading expert on asbestos toxicity. He is also the principal investigator of a related report published in The Lancet on the health effects of the attacks on recovery and rescue workers.

However, Dr. James Melius, administrator of the New York State Laborers’ Health and Safety Trust Fund and a peer reviewer of the firefighter study, warned that it “would probably not be enough to persuade federal officials to include cancer as one of the diseases covered under the Zadroga Act.”

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 (H.R. 847) was called into law by President Obama in 2010 and it states that those who have 9/11 related health conditions may be eligible for health care under this law.

If you were diagnosed with mesothelioma and suspect you were exposed to asbestos at ground zero, you may be entitled to financial compensation. To learn more about your legal options regarding a possible mesothelioma settlement, please contact an asbestos lawyer.