As we approach the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., there is much reflection taking place throughout the country on the day, the attacks, and their aftermath. According to a recently released study, researchers have uncovered yet another unfortunate result of the 9/11 attacks: an increase in mesothelioma cancers and similar diseases in those who performed rescue and recovery in the minutes and months following the attack.
According to the study, which was published in the British medical journal The Lancet, firefighters who spent time in the wreckage of the World Trade Center following its collapse were 19 percent more likely to develop cancer than those who were not at ground zero.
The study examined 10,000 male firefighters, approximately 9,000 of whom spent at least one day at the World Trade Center site during the 10 months following the attack. Most had been at the site during the first two weeks after 9/11.
Seven years after the attack, the study showed that 263 of the 9,000 exposed firefighters had developed some form of cancer. From this, it was deduced that those exposed to the wreckage of the World Trade Center developed cancer at a rate 19 percent higher than those who were not exposed.
While this is an important development, there is still much research that needs to be done on this topic. Researchers are still not sure of which materials are causing which cancers. In addition, because exposure to asbestos and other materials does not result in disease for several decades, it may be some time before the real, lasting effect on firefighters is known.
Source: New York Times, “Study Suggests Higher Cancer Risk for 9/11 Firefighters,” Sydney Ember, Sept. 1, 2011