HomeNews9/11: More People Have Died Due to Illnesses from Tragedy Than in Attacks Themselves

9/11: More People Have Died Due to Illnesses from Tragedy Than in Attacks Themselves

by Jennifer Shea
Matt Moyer/Corbis via Getty Images

In a special report released last week, the Justice Department’s 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund said more people have died from illnesses caused by 9/11 than died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks themselves.

The VCF’s report says that roughly 48 percent of 9/11 survivors eligible for compensation have come down with cancer in the years since the attacks. And cancer is one of the leading causes of deaths post-9/11.

“It is also sobering to see that more people are now believed to have died of 9/11-related illnesses than were lost on September 11, 2001,” the report notes.

VCF Has Paid Out a Drop in the Bucket

About 400,000 people were exposed to toxic contaminants in the wake of 9/11. Only about 40,000 of them have received awards from the VCF. The fund has paid out over $8.95 billion so far.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a program for survivors directly impacted by the 9/11 attacks. It’s called The World Trade Center Health Program. Its enrollee list is not comprehensive. But the CDC has gathered some data about survivors of the attacks based on the program’s participants.

According to CDC data, aerodigestive conditions are by far the most common type of health issue to crop up in both first responders and members of the public who dealt with the aftermath of the attacks. Next is cancer. That’s followed by mental health struggles. Least common, but still numbering in the hundreds, are musculoskeletal and traumatic injuries.

The most common cancer to affect survivors is skin cancer. That’s followed by male reproductive system cancers, then breast cancer.

9/11 Led to Many Subsequent Deaths

Roughly 2,983 people died in the 9/11 attacks, according to the National 9/11 Memorial. The 9/11 Commission report notes that the total death toll surpassed that of Pearl Harbor.

By 2020, 721 additional people tracked by the WTC Health Program had died. However, in the VCF’s report, Attorney General Merrick Garland claims, vaguely, that the total number impacted is in the tens of thousands. (The report does not specify how it arrived at its conclusions about how many have died since 9/11. Nor does it offer any specific numbers to back those claims up.)

Meanwhile, on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the attacks, advocates for 9/11 survivors spoke at Ground Zero. They vowed to keep after Congress for more funding. And they stressed the importance of continuing to help people battling 9/11-related illnesses.

“We can never forget those responders who were willing to do whatever it takes to make sure their health is protected, their families are protected as long as possible,” former New York Governor George Pataki said.

The fire union leaders, lawyers and officials who gathered there said they recently learned they would have to lobby Congress yet again soon. They’re aiming to get medical monitoring and prescription drug coverage for 9/11 survivors who have gotten sick from their exposure.

“We want everybody to realize that people are still getting sick and dying from the attacks and the rescue and recovery that happened 20 years ago,” said Uniformed Fire Officers Association President Jim McCarthy.