The 9/11 response team includes emergency workers and clean up crews. They still have significant health problems 20 years later. More than 91,000 volunteers and workers were expose to various hazards during rescue, recovery, and clean-up operations.
Around 80,785 of the responders had signed up for the World Trade Centre Health Program by March 2021. This program was establish after the attacks and use to monitor and treat their health. Our published research, which was based on the examination of these records, now shows the variety of mental and physical health issues respondents still face.
Mental Illness, Breathing Problems, Cancer
The health program found that 45% of respondents had an aerodigestive disorder (conditions that affect their upper digestive tract and airways). One-sixth of the responders have been diagnose with cancer, and 16% have mental illness. Only 40% of those with health problems are between 45 and 64 years old; 83% are men.
We found that 3,439 of the responders to the health program are now decease, far more than the 412 initial responders who were kill on the day of attacks. The number one cause for death is respiratory and upper digestive tract diseases (34%), just ahead of cancer (30%), and mental health problems (15%). Since 2016, the number of deaths due to these factors has increased six fold.
An Ongoing Battle Workers
Each year, the number of people who enroll in the health program for emerging health problems is increasing. In the last five years, more than 16,000 people have signed up. The number of cancer cases has increased 185% in the last five years. Leukaemia is a particularly prevalent form of cancer, surpassing bladder and colon cancers.
This is a 175% increase in leukaemia cases during a 5-year period. It’s not surprising. A link has been establish between acute myeloid and benzene-exposed patients. One of the most toxic exposures at World Trade Centre is jet fuel. Acute myeloid leukaemia, which is also report by responders, also reported by residents of Lower Manhattan who have higher-than-normal rates.
The incidence of prostate cancer has increased 181% in the last year, with a total of 181 cases. This is consistent with the age of most of the participants in the health program, but some responders are developing aggressive and fast-growing forms of prostate cancer.
Inhaling toxic dust from the World Trade Centre site can trigger a series of cellular events that may increase the number of inflammatory immune cells (a type or immune cell) in some responders. This may eventually lead to the development of prostate cancer.
A significant association may exist between increased exposure to the World Trade Centre, and a greater risk of long-term heart disease (disease that affects the heart and blood vessels). Responding firefighters to the World Trade Centre the morning after the attacks were report to be 44% more likely than those who arrive on the same day.
Workers Mental Health Effects
Around 15-20% of respondents said to have post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms (PTSD) at a rate four times greater than the general population.
PTSD continues to be a problem for responders despite the fact that it has been around for 20 years. Nearly half of responders say they require ongoing mental health care for a variety of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and survivor’s guilt.
Brain scans taken by some respondents also showed early-stage dementia, according to researchers. This confirms previous research that cognitive impairment in responders is twice as common in people aged 10-20 years.
COVID-19 And Other Emerging Threats Workers
COVID-19 is also vulnerable to responders with underlying conditions such as asthma and cancer. Around 1,172 respondents had confirmed COVID-19 by the end of August 2020. Even among those who have not been infected by the pandemic, it has worsened one of the main conditions that search and rescue and recovery from terrorist attacks are responsible for: PTSD.
More than 100 people have died from complications caused by the virus. This has also contributed to other responders’ PTSD symptoms. In the coming years, it is expected that there will be an increase in the number of people who have been exposed to asbestos at the World Trade Centre. Because mesothelioma, a form of cancer that is caused by asbestos, takes between 20-50 years to develop.
At least 352 people had been diagnosed as having the lung condition asbestosis. In addition, at least 444 were diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. The toxic dust could have contributed to the asbestosis and other fibres.
Our research included analysing data from databases. We cannot draw any direct connections between exposure at the World Trade Centre site, time spent there, or the risk of getting sick. It is important to consider differences in age, sex and smoking status between responders as well as non-responders. Some responders have reported higher rates of certain cancers. This could be due to increased surveillance, not an increase in disease.
We are beginning to understand the long-term consequences of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Exposure still has a negative impact on both the physical and mental health of those exposed. It is possible that responders still develop illnesses from their exposures. It is important to continue monitoring responders’ health, especially in light of the threat of new asbestos-related cancers.