13 August 2019

Asbestos in the World Trade Center -- How First Responders Suffered from Exposure

by Karen G.

When the towers of the World Trade Center came down they rained all kinds of harmful substances on the surrounding area.  Many people were negatively affected by asbestos and other materials from the buildings, but none more so than the first responders.  Some have died from related diseases and others are still sick. And they are still fighting for compensation and benefits.

Asbestos and 9/11

When skyscrapers like the World Trade Center towers are built, hundreds of different kinds of materials are used.  Many are toxic when disturbed and inhaled and the tragedy of 9/11 sent more than 400 of these into the surrounding air.  Among the damaging substances released into the air that day were cement and glass dust, PCBs, dioxin, lead, and asbestos.

Asbestos is a particularly insidious material.  Inhaling its tiny fibers can lead to serious illnesses that are fatal.  It was used in buildings like the World Trade Center mostly as insulation because asbestos protects against heat and fire very well.

When that material is disturbed, it releases the fibers that are needle-sharp.  Anyone in the area will inhale the fibers, which then stick in tissues in the airways.  This can lead to damage and, over years and decades, to lung scarring known as asbestos, lung cancer, and pleural mesothelioma.  The latter is an aggressive, deadly cancer of the tissues around the lungs, almost entirely caused by asbestos exposure.

First Responders and Asbestos Illnesses

Many people were exposed to asbestos and the other harmful materials from the World Trade Center on 9/11 and the following days, but those who experienced the most prolonged, riskiest exposure were the police, firefighters, and other first responders.

Some of these workers became sick quickly, but asbestos illnesses manifest over many years.  A study from 2017 investigated CT scans from over 1,400 first responders from 9/11.  The researchers found that about 25 percent of them had abnormalities in the pleura, indicative of asbestos exposure and that they may develop mesothelioma.  More workers from that day are expected to be diagnosed with asbestos illnesses in the coming years

Fighting for Financial Support

The first responders who worked on the scene of the terror attacks were supported through the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.  The fund was created to provide compensation for medical and other related expenses to those workers who were made sick by the materials released that day, including asbestos.

In June of 2019, as the fund began to run low and victim benefits were being cut, comedian and advocate Jon Stewart spoke before a congressional subcommittee.  He lambasted Congress for not showing up in greater numbers and for allowing the fund to slowly run out of money.

The fund was set to expire in 2020, but because of extended and long-term illnesses like mesothelioma, the victims still need compensation.  New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney introduced a bill to extend the fund in October of 2018. But the bill stalled in Congress.  Stewart went to the hearing in an attempt to get a vote and to get the bill passed.

His efforts, and those of other activists and first responders, were rewarded.  Congress finally voted on the bill and agreed to make the fund permanent through 2090.  This ensures the victims of the toxic dust and asbestos fibers released on 9/11 will get the funding and benefits they need for decades to come.


Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

When the turtle finally caved in after the outrage about him stalling a decision in Congress I applauded.
I can’t with the repugs.


13 August, 2019 06:59  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

It's sad as hell that so many first responders got sick because of this. But I'm glad to hear that the bill finally passed to cover their medical expenses.

13 August, 2019 10:31  
Blogger Mary said...

John Stewart did a wonderful thing and for that I have much admiration and respect for him. This bill would have never passed without Stewart’s intervention.

13 August, 2019 16:04  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Just being able to shame Moscow Mitch into anything is a near-miraculous achievement. Stewart should be proud.

14 August, 2019 11:44  

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