The Issue

On September 11, 2001, survivors, rescuers and community members were exposed to the cloud of debris resulting from the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings.

They inhaled noxious dust, fumes and smoke — potentially dangerous toxins that can cause severe damage and diseases years after exposure.  The full extent of the health consequences of this unprecedented toxic mixture of carcinogens — asbestos, lead, mercury, chromium, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides, and polychlorinated furans, dioxins and benzene from jet fuel — will be revealed in the years to come.

Once rescue attempts were over, more than 50,000 police, firefighters, other workers and volunteers spent months working as part of the recovery effort.   Some 7,000 New York City detectives were the last to sift through debris brought from ground zero to the morgue and the already- toxic Fresh Kills landfill.  At times, the dirt bubbled.

By January 2007, the WTC Worker and Volunteer Medical Monitoring Program had screened more than 19,000 responders; and the FDNY had screened 16,000 firefighters and EMS workers.

Respiratory illness — in too many cases chronic — psychological distress and financial worries has tragically reshaped the lives of many…responders…

It is the very least that we can do, to provide...medical services and other support …for those who became ill as a result of their putting their very lives at risk to help others.

Dr. Stephen Levin, co-director national WTC Medical Screening Program

Sample findings have shown:

  1. Almost 70 percent of responders had a new or worsened respiratory symptom that developed during or after their time working at the WTC
  2. 51 percent showed symptoms of psychological distress

NYPD Detective James Zadroga became the first fatality directly linked to the World Trade Center clean-up efforts when results of his autopsy were made public in April 2006. Zadroga, a 34-year old widower with a 4-year-old-child, died in January 2006 from pulmonary disease and respiratory failure.  New York State has since launched a study of the growing number of deaths among World Trade Center rescue and recovery workers. 

In September 2007, New York State lawmakers introduced a 9/11 Bipartisan Health and Compensation Act, which would provide monitoring, health care and economic assistance to thousands of Americans exposed to the toxins of Ground Zero.


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