Washington: Rescue workers who were at the World Trade Centre site in the US after the attacks on September 11, 2001, have increased leukemia incidence, in addition to elevated rates of cancer, particularly thyroid and prostate cancers, according to a study. Following the attacks, 50,000 workers were involved in rescue and recovery at the site, with many of them caught directly in the dust cloud from the collapsing towers.
From then, until cleanup of the site ended in June 2002, workers were potentially exposed to an array of toxins later shown to cause adverse health effects, including cancer. The study examined cancer incidence in responders including law enforcement, construction, and telecommunications workers, and found an increased overall cancer incidence, with the greatest elevation in thyroid cancer.
It is the first study to show an increase in leukemia, which is known to occur after exposure to occupational carcinogens, researchers said. These include benzene fuel and other sources that existed at the World Trade Center site, in some cases at low levels of exposure, and with a latency of several years from exposure, they said.
Researchers also found that neither the length of time that first responders and recovery workers worked on the site, nor the intensity of their exposure, had any bearing on the development of the cancers.