Respiratory Conditions – COPD, Asthma, and Sleep Apnea

Posted In: World Trade Center VCF

An increasing rate of respiratory conditions in 9/11 first responders and survivors has been linked to the toxic dust cloud near Ground Zero and across Lower Manhattan. Inhaling various cancerous toxins and fumes, particularly high volumes of asbestos, has resulted in significant breathing difficulties leading to conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, and sleep apnea.


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (C.O.P.D.) is a group of progressive lung diseases characterized by inflammation and obstructed airflow. Individuals with C.O.P.D. can experience difficulty breathing, uncontrolled coughing, and tightness in the chest. C.O.P.D. can get progressively get worse over time and cause irreparable damage to the lungs.

Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are the two main health conditions associated with C.O.P.D. Bronchitis is a condition causing inflammation in the lining of the bronchial tubes, characterized by daily mucus production and persistent coughing- so many people have developed this condition it was nicknamed the “World Trade Center Cough.” Emphysema involves the destruction of the air passages, typically associated with exposure to smoke and irritating gases.


Asthma is a condition that involves inflammation, swelling, and narrowing of the airways. Combined with the extra production of mucus in the airway, individuals with asthma can find it extremely hard to breathe when stressed or participating in physical activity. This condition is chronic and can be difficult to keep under control. Individuals who were exposed to toxic dust have reported suffering from asthma as soon as a few days after exposure, and many still experience breathing issues doing everyday tasks.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a potentially severe condition involving breathing issues during a person’s sleep cycle. An individual with sleep apnea can experience one or more pauses in breathing during sleep or multiple periods of shallow breaths. Shallow breaths can last from a few seconds to as long as over a minute. In a single hour, a person can experience these periods as often as 30 times.

Sleep apnea can present as loud snorting, choking, or gasping during sleep. Many victims are unaware that they have developed this symptom because they only present during sleep. The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive, where a person’s airway collapses or becomes blocked when the muscles in the back of the throat relax and the airway narrows. As a result, the individual can suffer inadequate breath or the inability to breathe at all. Aside from lack of sleep, sleep apnea has also been linked to high blood pressure and heart problems.

Respiratory conditions sustained from 9/11 toxins can result in the onset of more serious health conditions and decreased quality of life for survivors. Compensation for these illnesses comes from the World Trade Center Health Program, which additionally provides free lifetime health care. The Victims Compensation Program grants a cash award for anyone who suffers from COPD, asthma, or sleep apnea. As of August 5, 2016, COPD was also included as an eligible condition for lifetime health care for individuals exposed to the dust cloud in Lower Manhattan, regardless of whether it was pre-existing and aggravated or a new diagnosis.

Slater Slater Schulman LLP is dedicated to the representation of individuals who have been injured or have loved ones who have been injured by exposure to the toxic debris of 9/11. Our firm is handling litigation related to these claims nationwide.

If you or someone you love was diagnosed with a 9/11-related respiratory diagnosis, please contact Slater Slater Schulman LLP for a free consultation by filling out the form on this page or by calling our office at (800) 251-6990.

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