20 years later: The long term effects Sept. 11 survivors, responders face

National

FILE – In this Sept. 11, 2001, file photo, firefighters work beneath the destroyed mullions, the vertical struts that once faced the outer walls of the World Trade Center towers, after a terrorist attack on the twin towers in New York. Sept. 11 victims’ relatives are greeting the news of President Donald Trump’s now-canceled plan for secret talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgents with mixed feelings. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

NEW YORK CITY (ABC4) – Two decades ago, nearly 3,000 people were killed and thousands were injured during the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the plane crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Researchers estimate nearly half a million people are at risk of adverse side effects caused by exposure to the physical, psychological, and emotional stressors of the days, weeks, and months after the attacks.

Today, the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) says as of the start of 2021, 108,666 emergency responders, local workers, and resident survivors of the Sept. 11 attacks are enrolled in its medical monitoring and treatment program. The WTCHP was created after the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 was signed into law.

Zadroga was a New York City Police detective who was among the first responders at the World Trade Center. He later died of a respiratory disease attributed to his participation in the rescue and recovery operations in the rubble of the Twin Towers. The 2010 law, dubbed the Zadroga Act, was credited in remembrance of his efforts and those of his colleagues.

The WTCHP provides medical monitoring and treatment for emergency responders, recovery and cleanup workers, and volunteers who helped at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the plane crash site near Shanksville, Penn.

Most of the thousands of members enrolled in the WTCHP are a part of a handful of clinical monitoring and treatment categories including cancer, mental health, musculoskeletal and acute traumatic injuries, and aerodigestive – affecting both the respiratory and digestive tracts. The program provides treatment for adverse health effects from exposure to the stressors of the terrorist’s attacks and offers initial screenings and treatment to those there during the attacks or who worked, lived, or went to school in the New York City disaster area on Sept. 11 or the months after.

In a report released Tuesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland says it is now believed “tens of thousands of responders and survivors have become sick or died because of their exposure.”

The WTCHP released new data about the members it serves earlier this summer. According to the report, these are the 10 most common certified conditions reported by members in the program, and a look at how many are impacted by each:

Certified ConditionResponderSurvivor
Chronic Rhinosinusitis27,2486,180
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease24,9025,187
Cancers14,4319,279
Asthma13,3574,970
Sleep Apnea14,5941,414
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)8,8503,687
Chronic Respiratory Disorder – Fumes / Vapors7,6091,210
WTC-Exacerbated Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease COPD3,273843
Anxiety Disorder (NOS)*2,552939
Major Depressive Disorder2,514847

After a decade of research, the WTCHP has released additional information about those enrolled in the program. Among that research, studies suggest a significant and persistent increased risk of PTSD among the affected population. Studies also found evidence of a modestly increased cancer risk in the World Trade Center population for all cancer combined, thyroid cancer, and prostate cancer, with intermittent indications of other excess cancers.

Below is a table with the 10 most common cancers among those involved with the WTCHP:

Certified CancerResponderSurvivor
Non-melanoma Skin5,2321,171
Prostate3,3101,887
Breast – Female3731,466
Melanoma of Skin1,111394
Lymphoma659665
Thyroid610660
Lung/Bronchus535581
Kidney585392
Leukemia473381
Colon442332

According to WTCHP, 22,000 members have at least one cancer. Over 1,500 members who passed away also had cancer.

Here is a look at the states with the most members participating in the program:

  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Virginia
  • California
  • Florida
  • Texas

Utah has between 50 and 99 people participating in the program.

To view the full report, and to learn more about the World Trade Center Health Program, click here.

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