Fears are growing that the bombers – who have never been found – may have exposed scores of people to deadly asbestos-related cancer.
Police, paramedics and building workers who were among the first on the scene had to wade through asbestos insulation boards.
Most had been used to construct the city’s giant Arndale Centre which was devastated in the 1996 blast that destroyed buildings within a half-mile radius.
Dust churned up following the explosion has already been linked to the death last year of security guard Stuart Packard, aged 40.
He worked for three weeks in the devastated city centre and died of mesothelioma – an incurable lung cancer only caused by asbestos.
His wife Julie Barrett, from Essex, said last year:
“Stuart is so badly missed, he was so young. If the bomb hadn’t happened, he would likely still be alive.”
With an average ‘latency period’ of 35 years between exposure and diagnosis, experts fear there could be more diagnoses and more deaths.
Graham Dring, of the Moss Side-based Greater Manchester Asbestos Victims Support Group, admitted there could be more victims from the IRA bombing aftermath.
“Given it’s only 20 years, its possible, though it’s important not to scare people who were covered in dust to say they are going to end up with mesothelioma.
But there is a possibility there may be more cases coming in the future given the problem of asbestos fibres released as a result of that bomb.”
Former anti-terror officer Jonathan Woods, one of the first on the scene of the Brighton bombing in 1984, died last year from mesothelioma after inhaling asbestos while sifting through wreckage at the site 31 years earlier.