John Mormando believed himself in " top of its form » when, on March 23, 2018, he learned he had breast cancer. " It was a huge shock », says this sporty New Yorker, who had just finished a race Ironman from 226 km. After a series of genetic tests to try to determine the origin, his lawyer suggested to him a track: the exposure to the toxic products contained in the debris of the twin towers after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
"We felt that the air was toxic"
Employed at NYMEX, the energy and metals exchange headquartered just steps from Ground Zero, John returned to work less than a week after the attacks. " It was a war zone, he recalls. We felt that the air was toxic, but the authorities told us that there was no danger. All the elected representatives encouraged us. We were congratulated for the service we rendered to the country. And we are fulfilling our duty as citizens. "
Since then, many of his colleagues have fallen ill. Very rare in men, breast cancer is overrepresented among residents and first responders (firefighters, ambulance attendants, police officers, volunteers …) of Ground Zero: 35 cases identified by the law firm Barasch & McGarry, which helps the sick September 11 to obtain financial compensation. " This is a totally abnormal situation. Nobody disputes the link with the attacks », insists Dominique Penson, a partner of the firm. His clients are also affected by " cancers of the blood, brain, skin, prostate, uterus, and more rare forms affecting the liver, kidneys and bones ".
More than 14,000 cancer cases identified
In 2011, the US government put in place a program, the Word Trade Center Heath Program, to treat the affected populations in connection with the attacks. Of the 95,000 people enrolled (1), 14,030 are in fact affected by one or more of the 68 cancers related to 9/11. The most common are skin (3,891 cases) and prostate (2,927). First responders account for more than 70% of these patients.
United States, 9/11 still kills 17 years later
" The sample we follow is, in proportion, more affected by cancer than the general population. And the sick are youngersays Michael Crane, Program Manager. In the case of 9/11, we are dealing with an unprecedented combination of carcinogens such as asbestos, metals, fiberglass, fuels … What happens when, on such a large scale, Are benzene, which causes leukemias, mixed with asbestos? We do not know it. "
"I still feel angry"
It is estimated that over 400 000 people have been exposed to toxic " the battery ", name given to the pile of debris resulting from the collapse of the two towers. Cancers started to kill. In June, Luis Alvarez, a firefighter turned spokesman for his colleagues who fell ill, was swept away at age 53 by a cancer of the large intestine. He had spent three months at Ground Zero.
Former employee of a computer company located in the neighborhood, Jeff Flynn worked there after the attacks. At 66, he managed to tame his breast cancer with a treatment that costs $ 12,000 a month. Expenditure supported by a compensation fund for 9/11 victims whose funding was extended by Congress until 2090. " I still feel angryhe admits. I have the feeling that the authorities lied to us at the time about the quality of the air so that we could reopen the stock market and protect the economy. "
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