9/11 first responders still facing health issues from toxic dust

Hampden County

SPRINGFIELD, Mass (WWLP) — It’s been nearly 18-years since the World Trade Center towers collapsed on September 11, 2001. But the damaging effects of the resulting poor air quality are still felt today, causing health issues for first responders.

According to a National Institute of Environmental Health Science research study, World Trade Center dust consisted of pulverized cement, glass fibers, lead, asbestos, and other dangerous toxins. Some symptoms were apparent immediately after the attacks.

“Yeah, so what you’d find is coughing for sure, uh, possibly runny nose,” Louise Cardellina, a physician assistant with American Family Care, told 22News. “And then you have people who could develop asthma, either if they are asthmatic or if they are developing it, or it may make them more sensitive if they’re lungs are more delicate.”

Other more dangerous, medical effects presented much later. The study found an increased risk for mesothelioma, cancer in the tissue that surrounds the lungs, especially among workers and volunteers exposed to the asbestos in the smoke clouds.

22News went to Baystate Medical Center’s D’Amour Center for Cancer Care to learn more about the long-term effects of the toxic World Trade Center dust.

“Well what we know about mesothelioma, and actually lung cancer, in general, is there is a very long period between exposure to specific toxins and the development of the cancer,” John McCann, an oncologist at Baystate, told 22News. “And that period is typically in the range of about 20 years.”

McCann told 22News mesothelioma is virtually always caused by asbestos. Other cancers resulting from the toxic dust include blood and skin cancers, but mesothelioma is a “more-devastating cancer” since treatments are “fairly limited in terms of survival and cure rates.”

Since the deadly attacks in 2001, nearly 10,000 first responders and others who were exposed, have been diagnosed with cancer linked to the dust.

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