The terrorist attacks that occurred in New York on September 11, 2001 will never be forgotten by those who lived through the nightmare. They will remember because it was the most horrific day in the lives of most survivors, but also because all of those survivors have been marked with an extremely high risk of developing mesothelioma later in life.
If the goal of the attacks was to hurt Americans in the long term, that was accomplished by releasing approximately 2,000 tonnes of asbestos dust into the air when the planes crashed into the towers. Asbestos is a fibrous material that was used in the construction industry in the 1900s. The material was banned in the late 1900s, but many buildings still standing contain some form of asbestos. Unfortunately, some of those buildings included the towers that came tumbling down on 9/11.
The Asbestos Cloud
The asbestos-containing materials (ACM) within the towers did exactly what all other materials in the towers did on 9/11. They lit on fire, tore apart, crumbled and crashed to the ground. In the process, asbestos fibres were released into the environment where they were inhaled by the people trying to escape the towers, the rescue workers trying to get people out of the towers, and bystanders watching in awe as the buildings came down.
Anyone within the vicinity of those towers on 9/11 is now in danger of developing mesothelioma. This is a form of cancer that is directly associated with exposure to asbestos. While most people suffer from this cancer after inhaling asbestos fibres over a period of months or years in the work environment, anyone who comes in contact with asbestos is in danger.
Due to the large amount of asbestos dust released into the environment on 9/11, it is possible that those in the area of the towers on that fateful day will develop mesothelioma within the next 15-20 years. Short term exposure may not be the most common route to the disease, but short term exposure of this magnitude is likely to have consequences.
Where Did It Go?
The people involved in the 9/11 attacks and those watching from the sidelines likely inhaled a lot of the asbestos fibres that were released into the air that day. It is possible that the rest of the fibres lingered in the New York air and spread to other areas as the dust started to settle. Since asbestos fibres are not seen by the eye, it is impossible to say with certainty where all of that dust went.
Those involved with the cleanup after the event may have something to worry about as well. It is likely that asbestos dust continued to pollute the air as the wreckage was cleaned up since that wreckage included asbestos materials in a crumbled or broken state.
When you consider that thousands of people were exposed to tonnes of asbestos dust on that day, you can look forward to a drastic increase in mesothelioma cases around year 2020. It takes a couple decades for this form of cancer to make itself known, so the survivors and rescue workers will wait uneasily until they know the long-term ramifications of that day.