The 11th of September 2001 is a day that changed the world forever. Who can forget the horror of the terrorist attacks on America that caused so many deaths? But as well as the victims of the attacks who died in the moment, there are now many people who are reporting cases of cancer as a result of the dust they breathed in on that fateful day, some who have already passed away.

So what do we now know about this, and what is happening to help these victims?

50% Cancer Rise in Police Officers

According to a long-term study that was carried out by Columbia University and Weill-Cornell Medical College researchers and reported in Time, cancer rates in NYC cops are 50% higher after the attacks compared to before the attacks.

The study compared cancer rates between 2002 and 2014 to cancer rates between 1995 and 2001, and it found that the biggest increases were seen in cancers that are quite rare, including non-Hodkin’s lymphoma and malignant brain tumours.

This seems to suggest that the first responders might have suffered from attending the scene of the attacks and breathing in the toxic debris.

However, this may not be the full story. Some are suggesting that the figures could be due to improvements in cancer screening over the years, so the cancer rates may not be due to the attacks after all.

World Trade Center ground zero

The ‘Dust Lady’ Dies

Of all the people who were caught up in the 9/11 attacks and have now died of cancer, one of the most notable was Marcy Borders, who was the ‘Dust Lady’ in the iconic photo where she was captured standing in the rubble following the collapse of the WTC. In August 2015, she died from cancer, as reported in CityLab.

There are suggestions that the dust could have caused her cancer. After all, the dust contained fiberglass, benzene, and hundreds of tones of asbestos fibres.

The CityLab article also references Dr David Prezant, a pulmonary disease specialist from the New York City Fire Department who spoke of “World Trade Centre Cough” as early as 2002 in reference to fire fighters who developed a bad cough after the tragedy.

It also includes details about the Victim Compensation Fund that was launched by the Federal Government in 2001 and re-launched in 2011 along with the World Trade Centre Health Program. At the time of writing, there are 50 types of cancer on the list that are eligible for compensation.

No Definitive Link

Despite all the evidence, there is still no definitive link between the attacks and illnesses. However, it could certainly be possible that people who breathed in the dust are now suffering the health consequences.

After all, cases of cancer being caused by building materials have long been known. For example, asbestos has been proven to cause cancer, leading many victims to seek asbestos compensation as a result.

One of the big problems with mesothelioma, the type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure, is that it can take many years before it causes illness, and sometimes even decades, which makes it harder to know whether the attacks are to blame in many cases.

Definitive Answers Could Be Coming

The evidence is becoming more conclusive as scientists carry out further research, such as the study published by Environmental Health Perspectives in 2013. The evidence could also grow if we see an increase in cancers over the coming decades. However, for now the argument is set to go on.

Georgina McDonald has a background in journalism. Now a Mom raising 3 young kids she enjoys writing when she gets a free moment, getting her brain out of mommy mode and into the real world as she researches topics which spark her interest.


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