Two Decades After 9/11, Cancer and Other Chronic Conditions Linger

The World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) has identified around 70 forms of cancer stemming from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack, affecting first responders and people who worked and lived near the World Trade Center at higher rates and younger ages.

According to federal data, acute respiratory illnesses associated with the attack have evolved into chronic conditions over the last two decades. Nearly half a million Americans who responded to the scene of the attack or lived, worked, or attended school in downtown Manhattan during that time have presented with earlier and more frequent incidences of cancer, disorders of the pharynx and larynx, pulmonary complications, sleep apnea, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other chronic conditions.

The Justice Department’s September 11th Victim Compensation Fund provides support for individuals who suffered physical harm or for the families of those who died in the attack and aftermath, but the government has said such programs fall far short of distributing funds to the full number of people entitled to them.

Established 10 years ago, the WTCHP provides medical treatment and monitoring of covered conditions for first responders and survivors. The program has enrolled 112,000 people, including 81,000 first responders and 31,000 other survivors. Hundreds of thousands more may be eligible now or in the future if they develop conditions as a result of their exposure to toxins during and after the September 11 attack. Currently, the program is authorized to provide care until 2090. Some of these conditions can take many years to develop and their connection to the attack may not be obvious.

“This was millions of tons of particles mashed together to the point where literally stone walls became dust, it had glass fibers in it, it was on fire and it stayed on fire for months,” said Michael Crane, MD, medical director at the World Trade Center Health Program Clinical Center of Excellence at Mount Sinai.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, September 6, 2021.