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14 years later, Ground Zero workers left to suffer the health consequences

Today across the U.S., Americans remember and pay respect to those individuals who lost their lives in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. The tragic events that unfolded on that day 14 years ago were followed by days, weeks and months of recovery efforts by thousands of New York City first responders, firefighters, police officers and construction workers.

Standing 110 stories high and encompassing as area equivalent to 10 million square feet, the twin towers as they became better known dominated the New York City skyline and were considered a feat of architectural engineering. According to the History Channel, when the towers opened in 1973, "more than 10,000 workers," had been involved in their construction. When the towers fell on September 11, 2001, thousands more workers were involved in search, recovery and clean-up efforts.

In the midst of this unimaginable tragedy, workers throughout the city, state and country streamed into lower Manhattan to dig through rumble, twisted steel and pulverized concrete. Consumed by the task at hand and the hope of at first finding survivors and later recovering the bodies of victims, the men and women who worked at the site of the fallen world trade center towers gave little thought to their own safety or health.

Along with the physical hazards and emotional and mental strain, workers at the site were also exposed to dangerous levels of chemicals and toxic materials including "90,000 liters of jet fuel" and "1,000 tons of asbestos." In the years following 9/11, a significant percentage of the firefighters, police officers and construction workers who were present on that fateful day and in the weeks and months that followed began to experience a range of respiratory and other serious health problems.

Numerous studies and research indicate a link between those workers who were present during or in the wake of the collapse of the twin towers and adverse health conditions including specific types of cancers and asbestos-related respiratory illnesses and diseases.

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund was founded to help those individuals adversely impacted by the 9/11 attacks. However, funding of the program is set to expire next October, leaving potentially hundreds to thousands of individuals who worked at the Ground Zero site and who may develop related health problems in the future, with few options for receiving compensation.

Source: The Environmental Working Group, "Twisted Fate Of 9/11: Heroes And Deadly Dust," Linda Reinstein, Sept. 10, 2015

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