The strange illnesses which followed 911

by

Today marks the seventh anniversary of the day our world was broken. It lives forever in our hearts and our history, a tragedy that unites us in a common memory and a common story.”
—Mayor Michael Bloomberg (New York City, September 11, 2008)

As I listened to the names of those who perished in New York when Al Qaeda rammed planes into the Twin Towers, I felt as though I was back again to relive the horror. The tolling of the bells was a grim reminder. Almost 4,000 died including more than 300 brave firefighters who prematurely left their families, their last moments spent to saving lives and answering the call of duty

On September 11, 2001, I was at home in a high-rise building in Manhattan just a little north of Chinatown when the planes struck at the World Trade Center (WTC.) The mayhem that ensued could only be hinted by the incessant blare of sirens which went on for days in the neighborhood. On my window sill was an eerie veil of ash that rained from the sky and a pungent smell of flesh and incomplete combustion wafted in the air. The street outside was powdery as though a different kind of snow fell, off winter season.


The immeasurable damage of 911 still persists and is unraveling. As the world remembers, countless more live with the adverse effects of the tragedy. Thousands of those exposed to the toxic fumes, pulverized concrete, heavy metals and carcinogenic agents have reported health problems—from psychological stress, traumatic injuries, asthma to irreversible fibrosing damage on the lungs.

Potentially WTC-Associated Conditions
Triad Described by Clinicians:
-Chronic Rhinitis and Rhinosinusitis
-Asthma; Reactive Airways Dysfunction (RADS)
-Gartroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD);
Laryngopharyngeal Reflux Disease (LRPD)
Source: New York City Dep’t of Health & Hygiene Vol 21 (6):41-54

In the gray zones farther from ground zero there were people with preexisting medical conditions whose disease overlapped with new health problems which might be linked with the disaster’s aftermath. For majority of them however, no one could be 100% sure. As a physician, I could only imagine how hard it would be to ascribe these illnesses specifically to 911.


Though exposure to the fumes and dust of 911 wasn’t strikingly obvious to many, there’s no way to exactly quantify. My lung problem joins the umbrella of diseases seen in those exposed to the dangerous dust and fumes. I could only guess what I got, bronchiolitis obliterans with organizing pneumonia (BOOP,) had something to do with the pollution from the collapsed buildings. In a background of an immune blood disorder I suffered before 911 however, it would be hard to make an air-tight connection. But I knew this kind of pulmonary problem had been attributed to the respiratory illnesses that caused the debility and deaths of many rescue workers.

This uncertainty is shared by countless innocent victims of terror. Thousands of us harbor sicknesses that are confounding and debilitating, causing breathing difficulties, unspeakable pain, and mental anguish. The medical service delivery system has been taxed as health workers try to help with the rising costs of treatment. It has caused many insurance benefits to be denied. Lawsuits have to be fought in courts to settle liability claims.

Time, treasure, and money have been wasted because a few misguided rogues with warped ideologies and fanatical religious beliefs unleashed their anger on human beings who could well be their own sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, and friends.(Photo Credits: bear_inter) =0=
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