Health

Former New York City students raise the alarm about 9/11-related illnesses

New York — Nearly 3,000 people were killed on 9/11 and since then, more than 2,000 have died of 9/11-related illnesses. It’s estimated that 400,000 were exposed to toxins at ground zero, and not just first responders.

Thousands breathed in air contaminated with pulverized building materials, microscopic shards of glass and asbestos for months. So did Amit Friedlander, who was a student at Stuyvesant High School, just three blocks from ground zero. CBS News correspondent Adriana Diaz was a Stuyvesant student on 9/11 as well.

At age 22, Friedlander successfully battled Hodgkin lymphoma.
 
“In hindsight, I think my cancer is probably 9/11-related and now that I know that, if I could go back in time, maybe I wouldn’t have gone back to school,” Friedlander told Diaz.

More than 68 cancers are on the list of 9/11-related illnesses identified by the federal government, ranging from asthma to skin cancer. Less than 100,000 people, just a quarter of civilians and first responders exposed, have enrolled in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s World Health program, which provides screenings and treatment. Of those, over 52,000 have 9/11-related illnesses and more than 2,000 have died.

Former NYC high school students recall living through 9/11: “It felt like the buildings were crashing onto us”

“We’re watching for increasing numbers of cancers, particularly those that may be related to longer acting and longer duration toxins like asbestos,” said Dr. Michael Crane, who runs the World Trade Center Health Program at Mount Sinai Hospital.

It’s a cloud that hangs over many Stuyvesant High School alum. 

“Cathy’s the reason i’m here today, 9-11’s not something I typically talk about. But it’s, it’s so important, you know?” said Jukay Hsu.

Stuyvesant alum Cathy Choy died this year of gastric cancer. She was just 32 years old.

A classmate who has become a 9/11 health care advocate said she knows of 20 cases of 9/11-related cancers among classmates. Health officials said it’s critical that everyone, not just first responders, but the people who lived, worked and went to school, should get the free screenings.


There are health services and screenings for people who were in downtown Manhattan at the time of the attacks. Anyone who attended school, lived or worked below Hudson Street is eligible for the World Trade Center Health Program. For more information, visit https://www.cdc.gov/wtc/ or call 1-888-982-4748. For questions about the process or help applying, visit www.stuyhealth.org or email info@stuyhealth.org.

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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