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What Toxins Were in the 9/11 Dust Cloud?

9/11 ground zero manhattan

After terrorists attacked the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, a highly toxic dust cloud covered lower Manhattan for months. As a result, responders who worked at or near Ground Zero and survivors who lived in the NYC Exposure Zone were exposed to thousands of chemicals. 

Breathing in the toxins in the dust cloud caused many responders and survivors to suffer severe illness or permanent disability. Tragically, many families also lost loved ones to cancers and diseases that they developed as a result of inhaling the compounds in the NYC Exposure Zone. The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund recognizes the impact of 9/11-related health conditions and awards compensation to eligible responders and survivors who have been diagnosed with illnesses linked to the dust cloud. 

The Chemicals in the 9/11 Dust Cloud

According to Scientific American, no one has been able to confirm what poisonous gases were released into the air after the collapse of the Twin Towers. However, scientists do know what toxins were in the dust cloud — and they all cause cancer and other adverse health effects.

At Ground Zero, ten million tons of pulverized building materials, including plastics, glass, cement, electrical cables, and drywall burned at over 1,000 degrees Celsius along with 91,000 liters of jet fuel. As a result, harmful chemicals and known carcinogens were released into the air, including:

  • Heavy metals
  • Glass fibers
  • Lead
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
  • Steel
  • Gypsum
  • Cellulose
  • Asbestos
  • Calcite
  • Dioxins
  • Benzene

Exploring the Toxic Legacy of the WTC Dust Cloud

The size of the dust particles ranged from millimeters to nanometers — small enough to lodge into the lungs of responders and survivors who breathed them in, resulting in scarring and lung diseases. The chemical compounds found in the dust cloud could also become embedded in the sinuses and bronchial tubes, causing irritation and swelling. Unfortunately, many responders were not wearing proper protective gear or face masks to shield them from inhaling the toxins when they worked on the rescue and recovery efforts. 

9/11 Health Conditions Caused by the Chemicals in the Dust Cloud

Many of the chemicals found in the 9/11 dust cloud are known to be connected with certain illnesses. Due to the highly alkaline dust, “World Trade Center Cough,” respiratory conditions, and loss of lung capacity were some of the first health problems identified in responders who worked at Ground Zero in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks. 

Numerous other respiratory illnesses and aerodigestive disorders linked to the dust inhalation, such as asthma and COPD, surfaced in the months following the terrorist attacks — and continue to be diagnosed in responders and survivors, decades later. 

The dust cloud chemicals have also been linked to cancers or other health conditions that can take decades to develop. For instance, the effects of inhaling asbestos might not become apparent until lung cancer, laryngeal cancer, or mesothelioma is diagnosed 10-30 years later. Additionally, PCBs have been linked to breast cancer and PAH exposure has been associated with an increased risk of lung cancer.

Research also shows that exposure to the dust may be causally connected with prostate cancer — one of the top conditions certified by the WTC Health Program. Other cancers diagnosed in responders and survivors include leukemia and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, which may be linked to benzene, a chemical found in jet fuel.  

Significantly, these are only a few of the health conditions responders and survivors have experienced due to breathing in the compounds in the dust cloud. The VCF recognizes all cancers as eligible for compensation, as well as a wide variety of conditions affecting the airways, digestive system, and lungs — as long as they are certified by the WTC Health Program.     

Contact a New York City 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Attorney

If you’re an eligible responder or survivor who developed a 9/11-related cancer or health condition, you may be entitled to receive compensation for your economic and non-economic losses from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and treatment from the WTC Health Program. However, filing a VCF claim involves many complex regulations, and it’s best to have the guidance of a knowledgeable 9/11 VCF attorney who can help guide you through the process.

Legal Assistance for 9/11 Toxic Dust Victims: How The Dearie Law Firm Can Help

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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