Leading Health Expert Says 9/11 Asbestos Death Toll Could Reach Millions
In the sixteen years since the infamous Sept. 11th attacks, experts have established a link between exposure to the World Trade Center (WTC) toxic dust and various health conditions. For the most part, 9/11-related health conditions have been documented among responders and rescue workers who helped sift through the debris. Now, however, a leading health expert is warning that asbestos exposure from the fallen towers could lead to a serious epidemic in New York City.
Parker Waichman LLP is a national personal injury law firm that has fought for the rights of 9/11 responders and survivors since the beginning. The firm continues to advocate for 9/11 heroes.
Nine.com.au interviewed Dr. Raja Flores, Chief of Thoracic Surgery at the Mount Sinai Hospital and one of the world’s leading experts in pleural mesothelioma and asbestosis. The toxic dust cloud released by the falling towers mostly affected lower Manhattan, but Dr. Flores says that anyone in the city during and in the days after the attacks could have been exposed.
“In 15-20 years we are going to see a serious health issue here in New York. We haven’t even seen the tip of this iceberg yet,” he said to nine.com.au. “There’s almost nine million people in New York… a lot more people may have been exposed (to asbestos fibres) than we first thought. It contaminated a huge portion of the city and that entire population was exposed,”
The toxic dust cloud contained many different hazardous substances, including asbestos; pulverized cement; polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); benzene; dioxin; glass fibers; gypsum; jet fuel; heavy metals, including lead and other chemicals. Nearly everyone in the city was exposed to the dust to some extent.
Dr. Flores is warning that New York City could soon face an epidemic due to asbestos exposure. “There are a lot of people now who are having respiratory issues and we are starting to see more cancers,” he stated.
“People are already getting sick from the asbestos and they have died from it. If I had to bet my house, in 15-20 years we are going to see a serious health issue here.
“I think you will probably see double or tripling of the number of lung cancers in people who were in New York City on 9/11 and mesothelioma and people dying of pleural fibrosis from asbestosis.”
Asbestos is a known carcinogen, or cancer-causing substance. It was commonly used as an inexpensive form of insulation prior to the 1970s, when a link to serious health conditions was established. When asbestos is disturbed, it releases fibers that are harmful to inhale. Breathing in asbestos can cause asbestosis, or scarring of the lung tissue. Asbestos exposure can cause lung cancer and mesothelioma, a type of cancer affecting the lining or organs.
Dr. Flores emphasized the dangers of asbestos, stating “It’s one of the most dangerous substances around. Every day I operate (I see) patients that have been affected by asbestosis. The safe amount of asbestos in the air for someone to inhale is zero. There’s no safe amount,”
“The entire city was blanketed, especially downtown and Brooklyn. You went down there months later and you still smelt it. That dust was still around for a very long time.”
The New York surgeon conducted a study in the town of Libby, Montana, which originally mined and manufactured the asbestos used in the World Trade Center. Since, the 1990s, 400 people have died from asbestos-related illnesses, Flores found. The town only has a population of 2,656.
Flores warns that New York may face a similar crisis. “It’s common sense that what happened in Libby will start happening to the people in New York. That’s frightening and it’s a big deal,” he said.
Experts do not unanimously agree on this point, nine.com.au reports. In 2012, former New York City health commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said it was too soon to draw any conclusions about the link between 9/11 and cancer.
Flores says he worries that parties with a financial stake are casting doubt on the issue. “My concern is people – property owners, asbestos companies and people that are worried about getting sued – are playing down the harms of asbestos. Asbestos kills, we know that,” he said.
“They try to influence the population by sowing doubt, saying it’s ‘not that bad’ or that there are ‘safe levels’ you can be exposed to. That’s all BS and lies because they know it will take 20-30 years for it to manifest itself and kill people.”
Zadroga Act and 9/11 Health Conditions
Responders and survivors who suffered 9/11-related illnesses can receive benefits through the Zadroga Act, which was originally signed into law in 2011 and renewed at the end of 2015. The Zadroga Act funds two programs: the World Trade Center Health Program, which provides medical treatment and monitoring, and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), which provides compensation.
Parker Waichman is proud to have stood alongside 9/11 responders, survivors, lawmakers and other advocates to ensure the passage of the Zadroga Act, its amendments, and its renewal.
Reauthorization essentially makes the WTC Health Program permanent, as it will be kept open for an additional 75 years to 2090. The program received an additional $3.5 billion upon reauthorization.
Exposure to WTC dust has been associated with various health programs, including respiratory diseases and over 60 different types of cancer. 9/11-related illnesses also include mental conditions such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression.
The WTC Health program continues to receive new enrollees, suggesting that 9/11-related illnesses continue to emerge. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an additional 2,500 people enrolled in the one-year period ending June 30, 2016. Including the new enrollees, a total of 75,000 people across the country receive monitoring and medical treatment related to 9/11.
Legal Help for 9/11 Responders and Survivors
Parker Waichman is proud to have fought alongside Ground Zero residents, workers, first responders, and other survivors and advocates, to help ensure passage of Zadroga Act amendments. The firm vows to continue its efforts to safeguard all those who were exposed to Ground Zero’s toxic cloud and the trauma of the attacks, and ensure that all the deserved Zadroga Act compensation is received. To determine eligibility for compensation under the Act, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).