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Nearly Three-Quarters of 9/11 Responders Have Long-Term Illness

Posted: Sept. 9, 2021

More than 11,300 of the almost 16,000 FDNY 9/11 responders have been diagnosed and certified with at least 1 WTC-covered condition for physical or mental health.

The Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program released a report on the long-term health effects that the rescue and recovery efforts had on FDNY 9/11 responders.

Coinciding with the 20-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Health Impacts on FDNY Rescue/Recovery Workers – 20 Years: 2001 to 2021, is the third report from the FDNY WTC Health Program. Similar reports were released in 2007 and 2016.

FDNY response on 9/11

Nearly every active member of the FDNY workforce (99%) responded to the WTC disaster. Following the tragic loss of 343 FDNY members, about 16,000 FDNY members continued rescue and recovery efforts over the next 10 months.

The FDNY firefighters, emergency medical services providers, and civilian personnel (both active and retiree) were exposed to WTC dust, particulates, noxious gases, chemicals and fibers. Many members were injured on 9/11 or began feeling ill during the rescue and recovery effort.

Long-term health effects

20 years later, more than 11,300 of the almost 16,000 members (over 70%) have been diagnosed and certified with at least 1 WTC-covered condition for physical or mental health.

  • Nearly half of firefighters and a quarter of EMTs suffer from 9/11-linked gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
  • Similar numbers of personnel have upper and lower respiratory problems.
  • 20% have acquired some form of 9/11-linked cancer.
  • 24% have some form of mental health condition. Depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are the most common WTC-related mental health conditions.

Thankfully, statistics show that the cancer-specific mortality rate for WTC Health Program enrollees is 34% lower than demographically similar New York State residents with cancer. This strongly suggests that the cancer screening and case management included with enrollment in the WTC Health Program improves cancer survival.

Emerging health conditions

The report has extensive longitudinal data to identify emerging trends in this large population. It is the first report to investigate health conditions that are appearing now, but strongly suspected to be linked to the original exposures. These include autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, hearing problems, neurological conditions, cognitive concerns, and interactions between 9/11-linked illnesses and COVID‑19.

About the FDNY WTC Health Program

The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) oversees the FDNY WTC Health Program and certifies health conditions for inclusion in the program's benefits. NIOSH's 9/11 World Trade Center Health Program also funds medical research into physical and mental health conditions related to 9/11 exposures.

The James L. Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act (Zadroga Act) funds the FDNY WTC Health Program. In 2015, the Zadroga Act was reauthorized by Congress with funding to continually provide critically important healthcare services to WTC-exposed members until 2090.

This article is based on content in the
Sept. 9, 2021 InfoGram.

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