Most people have seen images, on television or in magazines, of the colossal rolling cloud of white-gray dust that permeated the streets of lower Manhattan on 9/11, but they may not realize just what dangers it likely contained—namely, asbestos exposure.
In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, that very different kind of danger reared it’s ugly head—resulting from debris left over by the World Trade Center—and has left thousands of people in harm’s way, including rescue workers and even mere bystanders.
Only 13 years post-9/11, two people have already lost their lives to mesothelioma that was likely contracted after asbestos exposure at Ground Zero. And experts predict the coming of many more such cases through the first half of this century, leaving those who have been exposed to merely wait and be on alert for the first shown symptoms of mesothelioma.
Much of the World Trade Center Contained Asbestos
It is estimated that, when two passenger planes being flown by terrorist hijackers, struck and collapsed New York City’s famed World Trade Center Towers, tons of fine-powdered asbestos particles were released into the air almost instantly.
Reports approximate that roughly 400 tons of asbestos products were used in the building of the 20-story Twin Tower structures, which occurred during the asbestos industry peak of the late 60s and early 70s.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report after 9/11 that warned of the remaining dangers those products posed to safety workers and others in close proximity to Ground Zero. The EPA hypothesized that the monumental force, which caused the two buildings to implode, had likely “pulverized asbestos to ultra-fine particles”—resulting in acute asbestos exposure for anyone in immediate contact with the ruins.
The Scary Reality of “World Trade Center Cough”
Sadly, even though standard safety precautions are generally exercised by any individual that must handle asbestos products today, much of these life-saving measures were neglected in the frenzied chaos of post-9/11 New York.
Thousands of clean-up crew workers, emergency first responders and even good Samaritans rushed to aid in the city’s response to the attacks, without considering the hidden dangers created in the wake of the tragedy. Not only those individuals but also millions of unsuspecting bystanders that were in or around the lower Manhattan area surrounding the towers have experienced asbestos exposure, many without even being aware.
More than 400,00 people are believed to have been exposed to some degree, according to records held by the World Trade Center Health Registry.
As a result, as many as 70 percent of those individuals who were first on the scene have developed lung and respiratory conditions, including a generalized ailment that has been coined “World Trade Center Cough.” Most tragically of all, two responders have already died of malignant mesothelioma—with more expected to follow suit in the coming decades.