Seventeen years out from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, nearly 10,000 first responders and others who were in the World Trade Center area have been diagnosed with cancer. More than 2,000 deaths have been attributed to 9/11 illnesses.It will get worse. By the end of 2018, many expect that more people will have died from their toxic exposure from 9/11 than were killed on that terrible Tuesday.
“We’re nervous,” said Dr. Michael Crane, medical director of the World Trade Center Health Program Clinical Center of Excellence at Mount Sinai.
Robert Reeg of Stony Point, New York, knows the feeling. The retired Fire Department of New York firefighter was seriously injured in the South Tower collapse. In the last 17 years, he's seen fellow first responders who survived the attacks fall victim to the illnesses caused by the contaminants that were spewed all over.
"You lose track, there's so many of them," the 66-year-old said. As for his own health risks, given the growing incidents of cancer among 9/11 first responders, Reeg said he doesn't dwell on it. "It's at the back of your mind. But you can't let it control you."
The average age of a 9/11 first responder is now about 55. While many people face a cancer diagnosis as they age, the rate of some cancers among first responders is up to 30 percent higher than in the general population, Crane said.