Types of Lung Conditions Caused by 9/11

The number of illnesses, diseases, and injuries caused by the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center is staggering. Although over 2,700 lives were lost in New York City as a direct result of the attack, nearly five times that number suffered injuries. In the aftermath there was the lingering ill effect of the smoke and dust that spewed into the atmosphere, carrying with it a number of harmful, toxic, and carcinogenic gases and particles.

According to an article in the scholarly publication Critical Reviews in Toxicology: “About 80–90% of the settled WTC Dust, ranging in particle size from ∼2.5 mm upward, was a highly alkaline mixture of crushed concrete, gypsum, and synthetic vitreous fibers (SVFs) that was readily resuspendable by physical disturbance and low-velocity air currents.” This is in addition to other dangerous pollutants, such as “asbestos fibers, transition and heavy metals, polyaromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs, and dioxins.”

More than 10 million tons of building material collapsed, sending dust throughout the air in a plume that reached a height of up to 0.93 miles and that spread throughout the metro area, carrying with it the causes of many types of 9/11 lung conditions and diseases.

Lung conditions caused by 9 11 toxic dust

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reports that there were three phases of exposure to dangerous pollutants created by the collapse and fire of the WTC: “First, the collapse of the two 110-story towers and adjacent structures generated high-intensity, peak pollution discharges on September 11th. Second, fires from the crash of two fuel-filled airliners into the Trade Center towers and fires and the resulting smoke plume at Ground Zero following the towers’ collapse created significant additional pollution discharges, which continued to some degree for at least three months. Finally, the resuspension of asbestos, dust, pulverized cement, fiberglass, etc., during the cleanup and transport of wastes at Ground Zero and in cleanups of residences and office buildings in the immediately surrounding area produced localized pollution hot spots.”

In addition, children are especially vulnerable, and one study suggests that there may be “long-term cardiovascular health risks in children from toxic chemical exposure on 9/11.”

The toxic dust included known irritants and carcinogens that lead to both acute and chronic lung and respiratory conditions. Among the dangerous contaminants found in the 9/11 dust are:

  • Gypsum: can irritate mucus membranes and the respiratory system, cause fibrosis, and may contribute to the development of cancer.
  • Glass fiber particles: primarily from fiberglass used as a building material, it can cause mouth and nasal passage soreness when inhaled, skin rash, and eye irritation. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified some fibers used in fiberglass as possible human carcinogens.
  • Asbestos: this was sprayed on the steel skeleton of the World Trade Center. Asbestos is a known carcinogen and a major risk factor in the development of mesothelioma, a form of cancer that mainly affects the lungs. Moreover, “respirable asbestos concentrations in the resuspended dust were 10–1,000 times higher than airborne asbestos concentrations in homes.”
  • Lead: According to the Mayo Clinic, “exposure to even low levels of lead can cause damage over time.” Lead (Pb) may be associated with a greater risk for lung cancer, although it is more linked to other diseases and medical issues, such as kidney damage and nervous system disorders.
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs): The Department of Health and Human Services has determined that PAHs are a likely carcinogen. These developed in the WTC smoke and dust plume as a result of the fire and the burning of other toxic materials. The more prolonged exposure to these substances by residents and first responders may be a cause of lung or respiratory problems.

List of lung conditions caused by 9 11

The World Trade Center Health Program (WTC Health Program) covers certified 9/11-related conditions, as well as “medically associated conditions, which are conditions that result from the treatment or progression of a certified condition.”

For any condition to be certified and covered, the victim must first apply for the WTC Health Program. Among the lung conditions that are deemed to have been caused by or exacerbated by the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center are:

  • Aerodigestive disorders are “conditions or diseases of the aerodigestive tract—including the airway (pharynx and larynx), pulmonary tract (trachea, bronchi, and lungs), and upper digestive tract (esophagus)—that may affect respiratory and swallowing functions.” Covered 9/11 aerodigestive disorders include:
    • Asthma
    • Chronic Cough Syndrome
    • Chronic laryngitis
    • Chronic nasopharyngitis
    • Chronic respiratory disorder- fumes and vapors
    • Chronic rhinosinusitis
    • Gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD)
    • Interstitial lung disease
    • New-onset, and WTC-exacerbated chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
    • Reactive airway dysfunction syndrome (RADS)
    • Sleep apnea (medically associated with another airway or digestive disorder)
    • Upper airways hyperreactivity
  • Lung cancers that may be associated with the toxic dust from 9/11 (certification would be required) include:
    • Non-small cell lung cancer, such as adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and

large (or undifferentiated) cell carcinoma

  • Small cell cancer, a rapidly spreading form of lung cancer
  • Mesothelioma is not actually a lung cancer. It causes tumors to form the tissue that surrounds the lungs and chest cavity. It is, however, covered under the WTC Health Program.
  • 9/11 non-cancer lung conditions may include interstitial lung diseases (ILDs), such as sarcoidosis and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis; pulmonary edema; silicosis, and others. These may or may not be certified as being caused by WTC dust exposure. Those affected who were in the exposure zone between September 11, 2001, and May 30, 2002, should contact the WTC Health Program.

Survivors and responders eligible for benefits for 9/11 lung conditions

Determining eligibility starts with applying to the World Trade Center Health Program. This program covers three groups of 9/11 World Trade Center victims, including:

  • Fire Department (FDNY) responders
  • WTC general responders
  • WTC survivors who lived, worked, or were students in the NYC disaster area (The area within New York City that is the area of Manhattan south of Houston Street, and any block in Brooklyn wholly or partially contained within a 1.5-mile radius of the former WTC complex.)

Eligible persons receive monitoring, treatment, pharmaceuticals for a certified lung condition or disease, and may also be eligible for the Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) to receive compensation for the damage they have suffered.

Questions? Contact Weisfuse & Weisfuse, LLP, today

We offer a free consultation to those who have suffered lung cancer or different types of lung conditions caused by 9/11 dust exposure. As experienced attorneys dedicated to working aggressively on behalf of World Trade Center disaster victims, it is our goal to get maximum compensation for our clients. Please call or contact us online to discuss your needs.

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