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Common Health Risks Faced by 9/11 Responders


9/11 responders face substantial health risks to this day. Critically, even those who have not been diagnosed with a 9/11-related health condition or cancer may still be at risk of developing a disease caused by exposure to the toxic dust in the future. 

Many 9/11 illnesses, particularly cancers, do not occur until years after exposure due to long latency periods. This is why it’s crucial to attend regular health screenings with the World Trade Center Health Program. You may also be eligible for compensation from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund if you have been diagnosed with a 9/11-related illness.    

The following are among the most common health risks 9/11 responders face:

9/11 Respiratory Problems

Some of the first health issues identified in responders were respiratory illnesses that occurred due to breathing in the chemicals in the dust cloud. Upon inhalation, these toxins landed in responders’ sinuses, lungs, and bronchial tubes, causing severe irritation and injury. Respiratory problems responders face an increased risk for include the following: 

  • Chronic cough syndrome — One of the first conditions doctors who worked with the FDNY and other responders observed was the “World Trade Center Cough.” However, as a result of inhaling the toxic chemicals at Ground Zero and in the NYC Exposure Zone, this was only the first 9/11 health condition to develop in many responders.  
  • Asthma — A study shows that 9/11 responders face a significantly higher risk of developing asthma than the general population. Although many responders developed asthma within a few years after the terrorist attacks, they continue to be diagnosed with the condition to this day.
  • Chronic rhinosinusitis — Chronic rhinosinusitis is a respiratory illness linked to the toxic dust that causes persistent nasal inflammation. A study shows that the risk of the condition does not decrease with the amount of time since exposure to the dust, and responders continue to be diagnosed.  
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) — GERD is the second most frequently certified health condition in 9/11 responders, following chronic rhinosinusitis. This illness can lead to other health conditions and complications if left untreated. 

9/11 responders have also suffered from countless other respiratory illnesses. Respiratory diseases comprise more than half of the World Trade Center Health Program’s Top 10 Conditions. 

9/11 Lung Conditions

Various lung conditions continue to present substantial health risks for responders. Significantly, data shows that responders face a high risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which can take many years to develop. Studies show that those who responded within 48 hours to Ground Zero have a 30% higher risk than those who arrived later.  

Research has also revealed that inhaling the chemicals in the 9/11 dust cloud has increased the risk of pulmonary fibrosis in responders — particularly those who had higher levels of dust exposure. Importantly, responders should also ensure they regularly monitor for lung cancer — as well as other types of cancer — which can have long latency periods.  

9/11 Cancers

Many of the toxins 9/11 responders inhaled remained permanently in their bodies, raising the risk of many types of cancers. In fact, studies have revealed an overall elevated risk of cancer in responders. Research also shows that responders who arrived early at Ground Zero are at heightened risk of developing thyroid cancer, prostate cancer, and leukemia. 

But those aren’t the only forms of cancer that responders should be aware of. Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most prevalent cancer among responders and more than 5,400 responders have sought treatment with the WTC Health Program for the condition. Other common cancers found in responders include melanoma, lymphoma, kidney cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, bladder cancer, and many others.

Contact a 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Attorney

In addition to the 9/11 health conditions above, there are many other illnesses and diseases 9/11 responders have developed. If you are a responder who has suffered from an illness or cancer linked to the toxic 9/11 dust cloud, you may be eligible to receive an award from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. is committed to providing knowledgeable counsel and skillful advocacy for 9/11 responders to help ensure they recover the compensation to which they’re entitled.

The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund attorneys at the Dearie Law Firm, P.C. have represented claimants and their families in 9/11 VCF claims for over a decade. For a free consultation, contact us today. 


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