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22 Years Later: Reminder of Occupational Exposure Risks After 9/11

Occupational Exposure Risk
  • Published
  • 11 September 2023
  • Category
  • General

Today marks the 22nd anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. On this day, Americans remember those who lost their lives and the sacrifices made by first responders, survivors, clean-up crews, medical providers and others who were exposed to serious occupational exposure risks. Many of these people continue to suffer from physical and mental health conditions due to exposure to toxins and trauma in the aftermath of the passenger jet crashes into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Arlington, VA, and into a field near Shanksville, PA.

Last week the New York City Fire Department added the names of 43 firefighters who died of illnesses related to their work in the rescue and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center to its Memorial Wall. It was the second-largest group to be added to the memorial wall since it was created in 2011, when 55 names were added, according to a press release.

The World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program administered by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provides medical monitoring and treatment for health conditions affecting qualified responders who were at the three sites as well as WTC survivors. There are more than 125,000 people enrolled in the program. In a related effort, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has been tracking the effects of 9/11 on more than 71,000 responders and survivors via the World Trade Center Health Registry since 2003.

Chronic rhinosinusitis is the most commonly occurring 9/11-related health condition, with 37,370 cases reported. More than 33,000 WTC Health Program members have been found to have some form of cancer. Other leading confirmed conditions include GERD, asthma and sleep apnea. Exposures have also been linked to cardiovascular disease. Among all program members, seven in 10 have multiple certified conditions.

Best practices for the diagnosis and treatment of people with suspected 9/11-related conditions are available via the WTC Health Program website. Topics include respiratory and digestive conditions, cancer, depression, suicide prevention, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use disorders and smoking cessation.

Many studies have been conducted on post-9/11 health effects. The findings highlight the value of disaster preparedness, medical surveillance programs, consistent use of personal protective equipment and accessible mental health interventions. A disaster the magnitude of the 9/11 attacks is a rare occurrence. However, workers are at risk of exposure to toxic substances, overexertion, repetition, extreme temperatures, storms, noise, infectious diseases, emotional trauma and other job-related hazards every day on the job. Employers have a duty to protect these employees from harm.

WorkCare believes that work matters, health counts and prevention saves. Visit our services webpages and contact us to learn more about our occupational health, wellness and absence management solutions.