The September 11, 2001, attacks took the lives of almost 3,000 people: New York City alone saw 2,753 people die. Of that number 343 victims were firefighters.

The collapsed World Trade Center towers left a plume of smoke that rose into the air, covered the sky, and floated over city streets, encasing them in a dust cloud of toxic debris and ash. That toxic air contained contaminants like asbestos, silica, crushed metals, concrete, and glass. 

In the past 20-plus years, those pollutants have developed into 60 carcinogens that have caused illnesses and taken the lives of more than 4,000 survivors and first responders, the Centers for Disease Control’s World Trade Center Health Program site shows

Short- and long-term health issues have plagued people who found themselves in lower Manhattan and in the northern parts of Brooklyn on the day the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers collapsed. 

In 2002, the federal government and the New York City Health Department created the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Registry in an effort to steer attack survivors toward locations where they could receive health care, such as the 9/11 Treatment Referral Program (TRP). The registry was also created to keep records regarding the health of people exposed to the Twin Towers collapse.

Some 91,000 rescue/recovery workers and volunteers are enrolled in the registry. This includes 57,00 residents who live south of Canal Street and 15,000 children and staff who were in schools south of Canal Street on September 11.

The health registry has, for years now, published research showing that those affected by the collapse had their lives forever changed. In its 2019 annual report, the registry showed that some of the people who enrolled have had to take early retirement and faced job loss; suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder; and have been confronted with diagnoses of cancer, pulmonary fibrosis (a scarring of the lung tissues), and strokes, among other issues.

Efforts to expand funding for the WTC Health Program so it can continue to monitor and treat the ongoing health issues faced by 9/11 attack victims, are currently on hold in Congress. The 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act of 2023 is a bill sponsored by New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand that would cover the program’s costs through the year 2033; the bill also sets up a funding plan to support the continuance of the WTC Health Program from fiscal year 2034 until the year 2090.