9/11 First Responders have increased cancer risk from asbestos exposure

It’s hard to believe this Sunday will mark the 10th anniversary of the horrifying September 11 terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center, launched a war and changed the world forever. The scars of that day still run deep.

For the many brave First Responders who fought to save lives that day, the long-term damage may not only be psychological, but physical. They were exposed to large quantities of asbestos during the rescue missions and are now at increased risk for cancer.

A recent study in The Lancet, a British journal, said that 9/11 firefighters are 19 per cent more likely to develop cancer than those not at the Ground Zero wreckage. Though the results aren’t fully conclusive, the study also suggested that the firefighters don’t just have an increased chance of mesothelioma, the cancer most commonly associated with asbestos; they have a greater risk of all kinds of cancer.

As a study released by HP Environmental explained after the terrorist attacks explained, the falling towers created a floating cloud of rubble and powder. Inside the cloud were asbestos fibres pulverized so small that they couldn’t be detected by the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard asbestos test. Anyone exposed to the cloud received a particularly powerful dose with an “overwhelming concentration” of asbestos particles. Scary stuff.

Naturally, the First Responders were right in the thick of the rubble cloud, many for days at a time, and appear to have been jolted with an unprecedented level of asbestos exposure.

No one can take back what happened on 9/11. But the release of asbestos fibres at Ground Zero and the long-term damage they’ve caused highlight the importance of asbestos remediation. Asbestos removal obviously can’t stop a terrorist attack but it can minimize the damage caused by the aftermath.

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