NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Former students of a Lower Manhattan high school suffering from 9/11 related illnesses are coming forward to help others who might also be sick.

Tal Beery is in his early 30s and has been diagnosed with asthma. He was a senior at Stuyvesant High School when the Twin Towers were struck.

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Even months after returning to school he said he remembers “the air was so thick it was almost suffocating.” 

Shoshana Dornhelm, who was a sophomore at the time of the attacks, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2016 and had to undergo six rounds of chemotherapy.

“More and more I’m hearing from students who have cancer, who have autoimmune disorders,” said former student Lila Norstrom, who has been diagnosed with chronic asthma and severe gastrointestinal problems.

“To a building that had not been adequately cleaned, to a neighborhood that was filled with smoke,” she added. 

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Attorney Michael Barasch said many emerging health problems could be related to the attacks.

“The pH level of the dust was the same as Drano. That’s what everybody was inhaling,” Barasch said. “People don’t believe that their illness in any way could be caused by an event, an exposure 16 years ago.”

Barasch said workers, residents, first responders and anyone who may have been exposed to toxins after the attack should find out if they are eligible for free services and possible compensation through the World Trade Center Health Program.

Advocates estimate there are 400,000 people eligible for compensation, CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported. So far, 80,000 first responders and members of the public have registered.

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Those looking for more information could attend two public health forums that were held at the school at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Thursday.