The 70,000 surviving firefighters, police officers and other first responders who raced to the World Trade Center after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 will be entitled to free monitoring and treatment for some 50 forms of cancer.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health announced on Monday that responders as well as survivors exposed to toxic compounds from the wreckage, which smoldered for three months, will be covered for cancer under the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.
The act, which also covers responders and survivors of the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon outside Washington, was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Jan. 2, 2011.
The decision addresses concerns over the rising health toll for emergency workers in the wake of the attacks, when aircraft slammed into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in New York and the U.S. military command center in northern Virginia…
Illnesses related to the Sept. 11 attacks have caused an estimated 1,000 deaths. Last week, the New York City Fire Department etched nine more names into a memorial wall honoring firefighters who died from illnesses after their work at Ground Zero, bringing the total to 64.
Cancers to be covered include lung and colorectal, breast and bladder, leukemias, melanoma and all childhood cancers.
The program had already covered respiratory diseases such as asthma and pulmonary fibrosis, mental disorders including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as well as musculoskeletal conditions.
But researchers have known that responders and survivors, including local business owners and residents, were exposed to a complex mixture of chemical agents, including human carcinogens…
Pulverized building materials created a toxic pall of cement dust, glass fibers, asbestos, crystalline silica, metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, pesticides and dioxins – “a total of 287 chemicals or chemical groups,” the WTC health program reported in 2011.
…The program’s science advisory committee wrote to Dr. John Howard noting that 15 compounds in the smoke, dust and gas at the WTC site are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as known to cause cancer in people…They therefore recommended that the program cover cancers that met any of three criteria: cancers caused by any 9/11 compound which the IARC classifies as a human carcinogen, cancers where high levels of inflammation have been documented, and cancers that epidemiology studies suggest that responders are at higher risk for than the general population…
Malignancies caused by compounds in the debris include respiratory system cancers, from the nose to the lungs. They have been linked to arsenic, asbestos, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, nickel and silica dust, all of which were in WTC air.
Cancers of the esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum and liver have been linked to tetrachloroethylene, asbestos, lead or polychlorinated biphenyls, also in the toxic cloud and dust.
The generally dangerous life of firefighters finally aided in developing the information needed to prove the cancer vectors. There already was a definitive, large body of data on the lives of NYC firefighters. This was able to show the spike in cancers compared to firefighters in years past who weren’t exposed to the unique toxins of 9/11.