Ground Zero Cleanup

After the collapse of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, people gathered to assist in cleaning up the area known as Ground Zero. It took several months to clean up the debris from the multiple tons of concrete and steel that gave way during the attack. Ground Zero became the memorial for the events of 9/11. Among the need to clear the debris and restore well-being in the community, a new matter emerged. Exposure to asbestos has been added to the list of concerns for those who either work or live near where the attacks took place. People who have assisted in the cleanup project may be unaware of the effects of asbestos inhalation. Since then, cleanup reports have been issued suggesting the amount of asbestos believed to be in the debris.

Consequences of Asbestos Exposure

The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health published a fact sheet that stated a high volume of asbestos was used in the World Trade Center’s construction. It is now known that asbestos was present in the debris which thousands helped to clear away. Those who may have been especially vulnerable to asbestos-induced illnesses are those who were first on the scene, working without protective equipment. Asbestos-induced illnesses include cancers such as mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is most commonly a cancer of the pleural lining of the lungs, but it can also manifest in other areas of the body. Individuals who develop the disease are typically laborers who were not given sufficient warning concerning the hazards associated with working around or with asbestos. Asbestos fibers are tiny, making it very easy for them to be inhaled into the body without the individual’s knowledge. Once inhalation occurs, the fibers embed themselves into the lining of the lungs where they stay for many decades. These dangerous fibers are a known human carcinogen that the body cannot break down.

Mesothelioma Treatments

Treatments being developed in clinical trials are currently developing better palliative treatments for those diagnosed with mesothelioma. However, there is no known cure. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that develops many years after someone is exposed to asbestos. The latency period can be twenty years or longer, and symptoms of the disease do not usually exhibit until the disease has progressed into the later stages. The long term effects on those who helped with the 9/11 clean-up project remain unknown.