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9/11 Toxins Exposure Linked to Genetic Mutations

April, 2022

DNA Strand

The effects of the 9/11 terrorist attacks continue to have an enormous impact on survivors and first responders who were exposed to an array of toxins at Ground Zero. The discovery of the link between exposure to 9/11 toxins and the development of serious health conditions, such as cancer, led the federal government to approve funding through 9/11 programs authorized by the James Zadroga Act.

Even though nearly every type of cancer can be considered a 9/11-related condition, we continue to learn more each year as studies uncover the true extent of the dangers associated with exposure to 9/11 toxins. For example, a recent study published by Nature Medicine revealed that a “significantly higher proportion of WTC-exposed first responders” experienced gene mutations in contrast to non-WTC-exposed firefighters. These gene mutations are the precursors to leukemia and other blood cancers

A “Chemical Factory” That Continues to Cause 9/11 Conditions

Atmospheric scientist Thomas Cahill referred to Ground Zero as a “chemical factory” that cooked over one million tons of debris at over 2,000 degrees for 99 days. The fallout was comparable to the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters. The 9/11 toxic dust emanating from Ground Zero consisted of numerous carcinogens that continue to plague individuals in the 9/11 exposure zone. 

Because of the severe consequences associated with exposure to 9/11 toxins, many Chinatown residents and workers opposed plans for the City to build a new jail. Demolishing an existing building that contains 9/11 toxic dust residue could place numerous individuals at risk of exposure to toxins that have proven to cause cancers, respiratory diseases, and other serious medical conditions. The FDNY first responders are a prime example of what can happen in the decades that follow a catastrophic event like the 9/11 terrorist attacks. 

9/11 FDNY First Responders Experience Cancer-Causing Genetic Mutations

Researchers and doctors examined the blood of 481 WTC-exposed first responders, and of this total, 48 first responders demonstrated “clonal hematopoiesis” (CH), which is the “acquisition of somatic mutations in blood cells and is associated with smoking and exposure to genotoxic stimuli.” Only 17 of 255 non-WTC-exposed firefighters turned out to have presented with CH. The cloud of dust at 9/11, without question, consisted of genotoxic materials that have proven to be carcinogenic.

Increased Risk of Blood and Lymphoid Cancers

Exposure to 9/11 toxins has been linked to a variety of cancer types, but blood and lymphoid cancers are more strongly connected to individuals who present with CH. As explained in the study published by Nature Medicine, “exposure of lymphoblastoid cells to WTC particulate matter led to dysregulation of DNA replication at common fragile sites in vitro.” 

Moreover, “mice treated with WTC particulate matter developed an increased burden of mutations in hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell departments.” In layman’s terms, exposure to the combination of 9/11 toxins has the potential to alter one’s DNA, causing mutations that increase the chances of developing leukemia and other lymphoid cancers later in life.

Early Detection is Critical to Cancer Prevention

The study published in Nature Medicine concludes by stating that given the unquestionable results of the study – of how exposure to 9/11 toxins causes gene mutations in first responders – a rationale exists to enhance “screening and preventative efforts in this population.” While the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) does provide screening for 9/11 survivors and first responders, greater detection efforts are necessary – even when a first responder or survivor is not presently experiencing symptoms of cancer or another serious health condition.

A Push for Additional Funding

Studies to identify risk factors in the 9/11 population are critical to ensure that cancer is not only detected early but that sufficient funding exists to provide cancer treatment for decades to come. While the WTCHP and the Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) are authorized to run through 2090, Congress still must appropriate funding for the WTCHP and VCF programs as time goes by. 

Funding provides the means for testing, which in turn provides the means for more expansive early detection measures. If a blood test can identify genetic mutations in a 9/11 first responder or survivor, then that person can take greater precautions to watch out for cancer. These early detection measures have the potential to save lives..

Contact Pitta & Baione Today for Your Free Consultation

If you or a loved one is a 9/11 survivor and are now suffering the health consequences of exposure to toxins from Ground Zero, you may be eligible to receive 9/11 benefits and compensation. To find out whether you qualify, you should consider speaking with an experienced 9/11 lawyer who can walk you through the process from start to finish. At Pitta & Baione, we dedicate our careers to standing up for the 9/11 community by helping clients obtain the medical benefits and compensation they deserve. Contact us today by calling (844)-982-2667.