Video: 9/11 firefighter: Pride in his heart, dust in his lungs

By contributor
updated 9/6/2011 6:21:33 PM ET 2011-09-06T22:21:33

Nearly 3,000 people died as a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and in the ensuing 10 years, thousands more have reported being sickened by the toxic dust emitted at Ground Zero. What made the dust so dangerous, and what kind of illnesses did it cause? These answers, and more, in our Q & A below.

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How many people were killed in the New York attacks?

A reported 2,753 people died in the New York attacks, including three people who died of respiratory illnesses linked to the attacks. A total of 2,983 names will be listed on the Sept. 11 memorial, including six who died in the 1993 World Trade Center truck bombing.

What was in the mix of World Trade Center dust?

Dr. Michael Crane, medical director of the Mount Sinai Clinical Center for the World Trade Center Program, calls the complex mixture of dust emitted at Ground Zero “a real witches brew.” The combustion of 90,000 liters of jet fuel created a cloud of thick, black smoke containing benzene, metals, hydrocarbons and many other chemicals. A number of research studies also show the collapsed towers produced a dust cloud containing thousands of tons of course and fine particulate matter, including pulverized cement, soot, pesticides, leaded and unleaded paint, hydrochloric acid, fiberglass, asbestos, wood, paper, metals, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

How many people have been made sick by the dust?

Doctors at the Mount Sinai Clinical Center for the World Trade Center Program in New York City have seen about 20,000 people. Close to half of them have been referred for treatment.

How many first responders were exposed?

Officials believe there were more than 60,000 initial first responders, including more than 10,000 New York City firefighters, and an estimated 15,000 members of New York Police Department.

How are the lungs affected when this mix of material is inhaled?

World Trade Center-related conditions listed on the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention include asthma and more serious respiratory conditions such as pulmonary fibrosis, for which there is no cure. The most serious cases require a lung transplant.

Study: 9/11 firefighters have 19 percent higher cancer risk

What diseases have been connected, or may be connected in the future to 9/11 exposure?

Male firefighters who were exposed to smoke and toxic dust when the World Trade Center towers fell have a 19 percent higher risk of getting cancer , found a new study released earlier this month.

Other 9/11-related health issues include sarcoidosis, sinusitis, laryngitis, gerd, an extreme case of acid reflux, heartburn, a number of psychological issues including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety disorders, Crane reports.

Victims and their families believe the cancer cases are directly linked, and are advocating for legislation that will cover healthcare costs of cancer patients. Additionally, New York State study released in September reported that nearly 1,000 first responders have died, but no one is sure why.

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