More New York Firefighters Taking Disability Retirements in the Wake of 9/11 Asbestos Exposure

A new study reveals that New York firefighters exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos on September 11, 2001 are starting to show signs of terminal asbestos-related illnesses. The online American Journal of Industrial Medicine report found a surprising increase in the number of New York firefighters taking accidental disability retirements in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Seven years prior to the attacks, about 48% of retiring New York firefighters took accidental disability retirements. Seven years after the attacks, that figure jumped to 66%. Our asbestos exposure lawyers understand that asbestos-related respiratory illnesses are largely responsible for the increase.

The World Trade Center towers were built long before federal asbestos restrictions were in place, and contained about 400 tons of asbestos. Sadly, many firefighters responding to the terrorist attacks did not wear adequate respiratory gear and suffered serious exposure to toxic asbestos fibers. In 2006, a New York Fire Department EMT died of asbestos-related mesothelioma cancer, and firefighters continue to experience respiratory problems.

Weeks after the tragic terrorist attacks, hazardous asbestos dust continued to fill the air. Thousands of firefighters and other emergency personnel inhaled massive amounts of carcinogens over a prolonged period of time and are still experiencing significantly abnormal lung function. In a New England Journal of Medicine study, researchers compared lung function tests from more than 12,700 New York firefighters and rescue personnel. A decade after 9/11, firefighters who worked at Ground Zero are 12 times more likely to experience abnormal lung function. These brave men and women inhaled dangerous amounts of airborne asbestos, putting them at serious risk for asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.

Respiratory diseases such as asbestos lung cancer are increasing the financial burden on the New York Fire Department’s pension system. Accidental disability retirements are up to $826 million, driven by World Trade Center illnesses and injuries still being detected.

Although firefighters and other first responders are most at risk for mesothelioma and other asbestos cancers, other Ground Zero workers and volunteers were exposed to toxic asbestos fibers from 9/11 buildings. Tens of thousands of people lived and worked in the area of the World Trade Center, and many of them joined in the cleanup effort.

Anyone exposed to asbestos is at risk for malignant mesothelioma, which can take up to 40 years to detect. Symptoms include breathing difficulties, frequent coughing, and chest pains, but these warning signs are often ignored or mistaken for pneumonia. It is important that these symptoms are detected and immediately treated so that asbestos victims have a fighting chance.

New York firefighters, rescue workers, and volunteers exposed to massive amounts of asbestos have legal rights and are eligible for compensation. Mesothelioma attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have experience helping asbestos-illness victims recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 continue to take a physical toll on our nation’s bravest workers and citizens, and they should not be forced to pay for their own medical treatments. The long term health effects of asbestos exposure are serious and often deadly. Massive amounts of toxic asbestos dust and debris filled the air around the World Trade Center after 9/11 and continue to cause asbestos-related diseases.

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