It is hard to believe that the tragedy of September 11th was seven years ago. It seems like it was just yesterday. Although Manhattan is slowly progressing on building the new Freedom Tower, and the Pentagon is fully restored, there is a lingering issue that goes beyond the tragic events of that day.

When the World Trade Center crumbled to the ground, the air was filled with smoke, dust and debris. As the days and weeks progressed, and the fires eventually subsided, and the smoke cleared, the question of what was in that debris that filled the air and blanketed New York came about. Steel, glass, concrete, paper. But there was also a variety of more dangerous health hazards, including asbestos.

Many of those heroic first responders did not wear protective equipment. In all the chaos, it was only several days later that these workers were reminded to wear protective gear. Although the EPA maintains that disease from exposure to asbestos from September 11th is very low, there has already been one mesothelioma-related death. Deborah Reeve was an emergency responder on September 11th, a paramedic for the Fire Department of New York. She began to have symptoms in early 2003 and was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2004. Reeve passed away from the disease in March 2006, less than five years after her exposure on 9/11.

Deborah’s case is unique in that mesothelioma usually takes decades to develop. City health officials refuse to acknowledge at this time that Reeve’s death was caused by toxic dust from the remains of the World Trade Center, but doctors for the paramedic say they have little doubt as to what caused her disease. They say the amount of asbestos she inhaled must have been enormous.

It has been estimated that more than 100,000 people were exposed to asbestos with the collapse of the World Trade Center on September 11th, including approximately 4,000 first responders. Because of this concern, and cases like Reeve, it is encouraged that those who were exposed to the toxic smoke and dust caused by the attack on September 11th undergo periodic exams, including lung capacity testing and chest x-rays.