In the aftermath of September 11th, medical experts worried about the long-term health ramifications. The people in lower Manhattan that day — and the immediate days following — were surely exposed to asbestos. Thus, they were in danger of developing the rare cancer known as mesothelioma.
That danger is unfortunately coming to fruition.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper, a 52-year-old first responder died Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019, from mesothelioma. The Pittsburgh CBS TV affiliate reported earlier in 2019 that he was diagnosed with stage 3 pleural mesothelioma.
The brave firefighter went to lower Manhattan to help in the immediate days after the World Trade Center buildings fell, the newspaper states. During his stay, he was heavily exposed to the hazardous mineral.
If this isn’t the first mesothelioma death related to 9/11, then it’s certainly one of the first. Dr. Raja Flores, the director of thoracic surgical oncology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, said there will be many more in the years to come.
“I’m not surprised,” Dr. Flores said of the news, “and I think we’re going to see more and more. You’re going to see, one by one, another year and another patient. Then another year and another patient. Maybe another year and then two patients. Then one year there will be six or seven.
“It’s going to be a bell curve. Little by little, you’re going to see an increase (in mesothelioma cases and deaths).”
As part of the White Oak Rescue team, the man and 10 others unselfishly traveled to New York City on September 11th, 2001. They monitored the area around the YMCA building just a block from Ground Zero, which is the name for the site of the former World Trade Center buildings. They were constructed in the 1960s and 1970s and included asbestos for insulation purposes.
The National Resources Defense Council estimates that at least 400 tons of asbestos was used to build the Twin Towers. In the first three weeks after they fell, the Environmental Protection Agency examined the dust. Officials found that 25 percent of the samples contained above the threshold to be considered a “significant risk.”
The victim’s wife was part of the group that went to help. She spoke to the newspaper about their experience in a cloud of toxins.
“Oh, my goodness, dust was everywhere,” she said. “And asbestos was everywhere, as we would learn later.”
The newspaper also details how the husband and wife had to share a face mask, leaving at least one of them at all times at risk of exposure. The victim then developed pleural mesothelioma, which forms in the cavity that separates the lung and chest wall.
Thousands of 9/11 first responders have been diagnosed with various diseases. However, mesothelioma usually takes longer than most cancers to develop.
While the Ground Zero exposure left asbestos fibers lodged into many people’s pleural cavity, the latency period for the disease is between 20 and 50 years. So more reports of mesothelioma cases and deaths are expected in years ahead.
If you were in or near Ground Zero on September 11th, 2001, or in the days following the attacks, you should know the common mesothelioma symptoms. If you are concerned you may have mesothelioma, speak with your primary physician to undergo testing.
Editor's Note: We will never forget the heroic sacrifice made by firemen and first responders, from New York City, New Jersey and other locations, in the rescue and recovery following the historic terrorist attacks in New York City as well as at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. In 2021, many cities held 20th anniversary commemorations and tributes to the heroes who lost their lives that day.
The national September 11 Memorial & Museum, built on the site of New York's Twin Towers, is dedicated to the victims, the family members and survivors dealing with the losses of the September 11th and related events.
The image of the U.S. flag raised by first responders on the flagpole over Ground Zero in New York City lives on in the minds of people around the world as a remembrance of that tragic day.
Heroes continue to lose their lives to disease as a result of their involvement.
About the Writer, Devin Golden
Devin Golden is the content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin's objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.