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NYC might release post-9/11 documents on toxic air, but doesn't want to be sued

Over 400,000 people were exposed to toxic contaminants in the days, weeks and months following the September 11 attacks
Workers and firefighters move through the wreckage and smoke of the World Trade Center, on 11 October 2001 in New York (AFP)

New York City’s attorneys say they might release undisclosed post-9/11 memos related to what the city knew about the toxic air at the World Trade Center site - but only if the city can protect them from lawsuits that could arise once the documents are public.

Earlier this month, the city’s attorneys met with Congressman Jerrold Nadler and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney to discuss releasing the 9/11-related documents that have been under lock and key since the attacks in 2001, the NY Daily News reported.

But they will only release the memos once three demands are met: allow the city to keep $300m remaining in a federally funded litigation account; fund a new lawsuit protection plan; and pass a federal law shielding the city from any further responsibility, the Daily News reported.

“It has been almost 21 years since these attacks, and people deserve the truth about what the city knew in the aftermath,” Maloney told the Daily News. “I hope that Mayor [Eric] Adams, a 9/11 responder himself, will overrule his lawyers and let this critical information come to light for all that have been affected since that tragic day.”

The city is afraid of being held liable for the aftermath of the attacks that took place on its own territory.

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“While NYC isn't responsible for the 9/11 attacks, it is responsible for what came after. It took over a decade - a decade - to even get the Victim Compensation Fund passed in government,” Mariam Suhail, whose father is fighting cancer and was working in the city at the time of the attack, told MEE. “I can speak for everyone who was affected, that we need these documents out in the public.”

In 2019, the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund was passed and will be fully funded through 2092. It will guarantee payouts for people harmed by 9/11 as long as they don’t sue.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that over 400,000 people were exposed to toxic contaminants, risks of traumatic injury, and physically and emotionally stressful conditions in the days, weeks and months following the attacks. The common conditions include: chronic cough; asthma; sinus congestion; certain cancers; stress-related disorders; and depression - among the many other symptoms and diseases.

In July 2011, the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program officially launched to provide medical monitoring and treatment of WTC-related health conditions for 9/11 responders and survivors.

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