21 years later: NYC is still investigating nearly 100 illnesses associated with toxic dust from the 9/11 attack

The Puerto Rican Alisse Vigo Ramos I left the subway station 21 years ago Cortland Street in Lower Manhattan. Within minutes of arriving at his office, located at 90 Wall Street, just blocks from what was a scene from disaster, death and despairheard the first noise that marked his life. And that years later, it caused some sequels.

It was 8:50 a.m. on the morning of September 11, 2001, and the aircraft from American Airlines Flight 11 had already impacted the first of the Twin Towers.

“Nobody knew what was going on at the time. Of course, it immediately began to spread throughout the southern part of the island of Manhattan a thick cloud of smoke. But at that time we all assumed that it was an accident, ”he said.

When to At 9:03 a.m., the second plane of United Airlines Flight 175 passed through the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Alisse already handled versions that it was about something else.

“Everyone there, even on television, was talking about terrorist attacks. My colleagues from the office and I went for a walk north just as the first tower collapsed, fWe were completely covered in that thick gray soot. She stuck to our body. we suck it up”, says the islander.

Everything else is a story already known by the city and humanity. But after more than two decades of the bloodiest terrorist attack in recent history in the country, still in this 2022 is trying to understand the effects on physical and emotional health of those who were exposed for hours and days to tons of toxic material that covered the southern part of Manhattan.

Alisse comments that four of her co-workers have died in recent years- (Photo: F. Martínez)

¡Mrs; You have cancer!”

In 2019, Alisse began to feel a strange discomfort at the level of her kidney, after the first scan, the diagnosis was very clear: “Ma’am, you have a cancerous lesion in the right lung!”

Today, after almost three years struggling with this diagnosis and after a successful operation that allowed her to recover, Alisse reports that many of her co-workers, they did not have the same luck.

Four died and others are disabled by other diseases. I am still alive with enthusiasm. Beyond the emotional, we thought that only the rescuers, who were removing debris, were the ones who could get sick. But I and my work group are a clear testimony that this is not the case. So many patients in one group, it cannot be a coincidence”remarked the Puerto Rican.

That morning, which has been very difficult for New Yorkers to forget, Alisse walked to the Bronx. At three weeks, still with the “strange and heavy air” in Lower Manhattanreturned to his office where 21 years later he is still working.

“I received incredible medical care thanks to the victim support programs. But it makes me very sad, when I see that there are people who, because they don’t know or simply because of some fear because they don’t have papers, they still do not seek available help”finished.

21 years: Effects are still being studied

Based on a report from the New York City Department of Health (DOHMH) based on information derived from the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program, the collapse and fire in the twin towers released a complex mixture of dust, smoke and irritating gases.

In general, at least 100 physical and mental illnesses associated with contact with these materials, which in some cases, like the diagnosis of Alisse Vigo Ramosare emerging recently.

“The dust cloud also contained heavy metals, as well as asbestos and other carcinogens. Additionally, smoke from the lingering flames for months after the attack contained dangerous and potentially carcinogenic substances.

To this date, scientific research, doubts and concerns about the possibility of increased cancer rates among highly exposed peoplebe it September 11, 2001, or the days, weeks and months after.

The DOHMH, the New York Fire Department and other investigators are carefully monitoring cancer rates, between highly exposed groups, to clearly detect if the rates are higher than normal.

In this sense, Felix Ortegaa spokesperson for the WTC Health Registry, a City unit that tracks changes in the physical and mental health of people directly exposed to the 9/11 disaster, says it’s estimated that at least 400,000 people were in contact with this toxic material.

Right now, 71,000 first responders and survivors are part of this registrywhich was integrated with volunteers in 2003, which allows scientists and health professionals to investigate diseases related to this disaster.

“We constantly monitor these groups. It would be very difficult to reach a conclusion about the most common diseases, because each case has a different clinical history. But what we do observe is a very important prevalence of mental health problems, such as anxiety and post-traumatic stressOrtega concluded.

The attack on the Twin Towers gave rise to a declaration of national emergency that still lasts. (Photo: Getty Images)

respiratory and mental problems

In addition, the WTC Health Registry continues to provide medical providers and researchers with information that, over time, will help determine the full extent of the conditions related to this tragedyhow long they last and if new conditions appear.

“This work continues to help answer questions about the long-term health effects of this disaster”, emphasized the spokesman for this registry.

According to the extensive and complicated data of published research related to this registry, there are some conclusions about the health effects of those who were exposed to the toxic material, which originated for the chain of explosions that caused this terrorist attack in Lower Manhattan.

Some data indicate that 47.8% of a group of more than 36,000 people surveyed in 2006suffered from one or more diseases associated with polluting products.

of this sample 76% reported respiratory illnesses and 15% depressive pictures.

Cancer: “More research is needed”

However, although various forms of cancer categorized as “rare”, are also in the inventory of the sequels. And there are hundreds of comparative medical studies, which have firefighters and rescuers as a sample, so far there is no complete “photograph” that describes the relationship between these pathologies and part of the chemicals detected in the air during and after the tragedy that have been designated as carcinogenic.

With the collapse of what were the tallest buildings in the Western world, a gigantic column of smoke was generated, made up of remains of jet fuel, electronic equipment, mercury, asbestos and asbestos, Many reports agree.

The New York disaster area for survivors is the area of ​​Lower Manhattan located south of Houston Street and includes any Brooklyn block within a radius of 1.5 miles from the former World Trade Center site.

“Since cancer usually develops slowly, more research is needed to determine whether the results of the early studies will remain the same or change over time,” concluded the WTC Register.

So far it has been quantified that the rates of prostate and thyroid canceramong the nearly 21,000 registered rescue and recovery workers, were much higher than those in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, where most of the workers lived.

The New York City Fire Department also found an increased risk of cancer among nearly 9,000 firefighters with exposure to the WTC.

“It is important to note that 21 years later and for many more years there will be health programs for those who were exposed to toxic material derived from this attack. That we will continue to investigate this impact with the scientific community. And that without fear people can check if they are eligible to receive financial aid“, highlighted Felix Ortega of the WTC Registry.

Ceremony for the fallen this Sunday

  • New York City will again pay tribute to the almost 3,000 people who died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, during the annual ceremony at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in Lower Manhattan.
  • The 21st anniversary of the horrific coordinated attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93 will take place from 8:40 a.m. this Sunday.
  • The ceremony will begin, as always, with the ringing of bells at 8:46 am, marking the time that hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the WTC. All houses of worship in the five boroughs are also encouraged Let your bells ring at this time.
  • After the chimes and a moment of silence, the relatives of those who died in the terrorist attacks, will begin to read the 2,983 names of the victims who perished in both incidents.

Survivors and their health pictures:

  • 100 diseases or physical pathologies and mental disorders are covered by the WTC Health Program ranging from cancer to digestive, pulmonary, musculoskeletal and mental disorders.
  • 47.8% of a group surveyed six years After the tragedy, he indicated suffering from more than two illnesses.
  • 76.5% of people surveyed in the WTC Registry reported symptoms of respiratory illness after being exposed to contaminants that became airborne after the attack.
  • 15.4% reported having received a diagnosis of asthma.
  • fifteen% manifested pictures of depression and 14.2% post-traumatic syndrome
  • 22.3% had gastric reflux.
  • Who is eligible for the WTC Health Program?

    • The WTC Health Program offers follow-up and health treatment for survivors who were temporarily exposed to toxic material resulting from the terrorist attack that ended up bringing down the Twin Towers in Lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001.
    • Also for those who have worked, resided, or attended school, daycare, or other adult services in that area since the September 11, 2001 through July 31, 2002.
    • WTC attack survivors can obtain applications at or by calling 888-982-4748.
    • Applications are available in Spanish.

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