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Health Effects of Asbestos Exposure During the 9/11 Attacks

September 15, 2023 In 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund

The tragic events of September 11, 2001, resulted in a loss of life that remains unparalleled in modern American history. However, the immediate horrors of that day masked another lurking danger: the release of toxic substances, including asbestos, into the atmosphere.

As the Twin Towers collapsed, the destruction unleashed vast clouds of dust and debris containing harmful asbestos fibers. These fibers were subsequently inhaled by survivors, first responders, volunteers, and residents of lower Manhattan, leading to serious health problems. A VCF lawyer may be able to help you assess your legal options following exposure to asbestos fibers during the WTC collapse.

Firefighter in Hazard Gear

What Is Asbestos and Why Is It Dangerous?

Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring silicate minerals valued for their fire resistance, insulation capabilities, and tensile strength. For these reasons, it was extensively used in construction materials, including those of the World Trade Center. When these buildings fell, the structural elements broke apart and many asbestos fibers became airborne.

Breathing asbestos fibers can lead to severe health conditions, many of which do not develop for years after the initial exposure. This can make early diagnosis and treatment challenging. Sadly, many asbestos-related diseases have a low life expectancy rate.

What Are the Effects of Acute Asbestos Exposure?

Short-term exposure to asbestos, such as incidents that last less than a few days, may seem harmless. However, asbestos-related dangers aren’t solely tied to prolonged contact. The sheer intensity of an exposure event, such as the release of asbestos fibers during the 9/11 attacks, can significantly heighten the risk of future illnesses.

In the aftermath of 9/11, rescue workers, first responders, and nearby residents were exposed to the dust cloud. They soon reported symptoms that became known as World Trade Center cough, characterized by persistent coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. This condition was the initial indication that the environmental aftermath was compromising respiratory health.

While a singular, brief exposure, like a one-time do-it-yourself renovation, might not pose a significant threat, intense exposure or multiple short-term exposures over time can be dangerous. Many victims of 9/11 have reported being diagnosed with 9/11-related conditions, sometimes with devastating consequences.

What Diseases Are Related to Asbestos Exposure?

Asbestos can pose severe health risks, particularly for those exposed during the events of 9/11. Over time, acute exposure to these fibers can lead to serious medical conditions, such as the following:

  • Asbestosis: This disease is a chronic respiratory condition caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. The inhaled fibers cause lung tissues to scar, making breathing progressively more difficult.
  • Lung cancer: Asbestos exposure significantly elevates the risk of developing lung cancer, especially for those who smoke cigarettes. Tumors that develop in the lungs can spread to the rest of the body, leading to a grim prognosis.
  • Mesothelioma: This rare and aggressive cancer affects the lining of the lungs, chest cavity, or abdomen. Almost exclusively associated with asbestos exposure, its diagnosis often occurs in the disease’s advanced stages. Sadly, many cases of mesothelioma are fatal.

What Should You Do If You Were Exposed to Asbestos on 9/11?

The events of 9/11 have resulted in unprecedented exposure to toxic dust and debris, including asbestos. If you were exposed to the 9/11 dust cloud, doctors from the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) recommend that you closely monitor your health. Early symptom detection, when possible, can lead to better treatment outcomes.

To protect your health and overall well-being, take the following steps after your asbestos exposure:

  • Obtain a Complete Medical Evaluation: Get a thorough medical examination of your respiratory and digestive systems to assess any potential health risks associated with asbestos exposure.
  • Get a Mental Health Evaluation: It is equally important to prioritize your mental health after living through a tragic event as deadly as the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Seek a comprehensive mental health evaluation to address any emotional or psychological effects stemming from the traumatic experience.
  • Adhere to Your Treatment Plan: Follow the treatments and medications prescribed by your healthcare provider diligently. Early intervention and proper medical care can significantly improve your health outcomes.
  • Explore Multidisciplinary Treatment Options: Consider seeking multidisciplinary treatment that addresses both your physical and mental health needs, ensuring a holistic approach to your well-being.
  • Seek Help to Manage Chronic Conditions: If you develop chronic conditions as a result of asbestos exposure, managing them effectively can help control their severity over time. Consider seeking help from a medical professional who specializes in asbestos-related conditions.
  • Join a Support Group: Joining a support group comprised of individuals who share similar asbestos-related conditions can provide invaluable emotional support and practical insights into managing your health. These groups offer a safe space to discuss your experiences, exchange information about treatments and coping strategies, and find solace in knowing you are not alone in your journey.

Can You Recover Compensation for 9/11-Related Asbestos Exposure?

Being diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness can change your life drastically. You can suffer from mounting medical expenses, chronic pain, and a diminished quality of life. For individuals affected by 9/11-related asbestos exposure, financial compensation may be available through the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF).

The VCF was established to provide support to victims of the September 11th attacks and those exposed to toxins in the aftermath. This fund covers medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other eligible costs associated with these diseases.

To be eligible for the VCF, you need to:

  • Have been diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition related to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the toxic dust cloud;
  • Have been present in the VCF New York City Exposure Zone anytime from September 11th, 2001 to May 30th, 2002; and
  • Register with the WTCHP and receive an official diagnosis of your 9/11-related medical condition.

Do You Need an Attorney for Your Victim Compensation Claim?

Navigating a complex VCF claim can be a challenging task, especially if you are living with a debilitating asbestos-related illness. In these situations, you need an attorney who will advocate for your rights and guide you through the claims process. A 9/11 VCF lawyer can help you complete your application, gather necessary evidence, and accurately calculate your potential award so that you can secure the compensation that you deserve.

After seeking medical care for your illness, schedule a free consultation with an attorney who specializes in VCF claims. Your lawyer will carefully evaluate your case and explain your options for maximum compensation.