9/11 Health Fallout Worse Than Expected, Research Shows

NY Daily News - September 11, 2016

by Ginger Adams Otis

Fifteen years after the World Trade Center tragedy, the health consequences of 9/11 are even worse than predicted, the latest research shows. According to a summary released Friday of five research articles on the health impacts of the rescue and recovery efforts at World Trade Center sites, both the number of people sickened and the type of illnesses presented were larger than expected.

Cancer in particular was more prevalent that experts had hoped.

More cancer cases of all types were found among rescue and recovery workers and civilian survivors when compared to the state’s general population.

Prostate cancer contributed substantially to the total excess of cancer across all sites.

Asthma and post-traumatic stress disorder were linked to persistent gastroesophageal problems post-9/11. Additionally, some peopel who didn’t suffer from gastroesophageal discomfort for years after 9/11 later developed problems, experts found. Workers with 9/11-related chronic health conditions were more likely to experience early retirement or job loss. The likelihood of early retirement and job loss increased considerably when the worker also had PTSD.

The most afflicted by PTSD were those in the Twin Towers at the time of the attacks.

They were 30% more likely to have PTSD and 50% more likely to be frequent binge drinkers a decade after 9/11, compared to the general population.

First responders and workers involved in World Trade Center recovery at the Fresh Kills Landfill and on barges had an increased risk of new-onset asthma, with 5.4% developing asthma through 2004. The results were a sad dovetail to findings released Friday by the Uniformed Fire Officers’ Association, the union that represents those in the FDNY’s higher-ranks.

Through July 2016, 10,233 firefighters had at least one 9/11-linked illness — and many had more than one, said UFOA head Jake Lemonda.

“That’s roughly 2/3 of the firefighters who responded to the Twin Towers,” the union president said.

There were currently 1,396 afflicted with cancer; 5,723 battling a gastroesophageal problem; 5,557 diagnosed with upper respiratory illness and 5,456 with a lower respiratory illness, he said. “There are many firefighters who responded on 9/11 and the days and weeks after who are very very sick,” Lemonda said. “Yet, not one member has ever said they regretted responding.”

Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said the city is committed to learning as much as possible about the health effects of 9/11.

“(We are) tracking the health of 71,000 people directly exposed to the attacks and referring them to care through the federal WTC Health Program,” she said.

“The registry plays a critical role in understanding how disasters of this scope and nature affect the health and well-being of first responders, area workers and residents over time,” she said.