Cancer cases among Ground Zero workers double in one year

World Today

New York Fire Department workers show signs of fatigue after working long hours to clear rubble and search for survivors at the World Trade Center, September 20, 2001. (Photo: FEMA Photo Library/Andrea Booher)

The number of Ground Zero workers reporting to have cancer has doubled within the past year. In 2013, there were 1,140 confirmed cases of cancer among workers and responders at the World Trade Center site. The latest reports now tally the number of cases at 2,518.

The World Trade Center Health Program at Mount Sinai Hospital reported data on 37,000 workers at the Ground Zero site — including police officers, construction and sanitation workers, as well as city employees and volunteers — who were part of the massive rescue, recovery and cleanup efforts in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. The data showed that of those evaluated, 1,655 responders had at least one form of cancer. When firefighters and EMTs are included, that figure climbs to 2,518.

The Fire Department of the City of New York cited 863 cases of cancer among its members certified for 9/11-related treatment, based on research by its World Trade Center health program.

According to a study by Environmental Health Perspectives, Ground Zero rescue and recovery workers showed higher instances of cancer than expected when compared to the general population. Several specific cancer types, including thyroid, prostate, and combined hematopoietic and lymphoid cancers, were especially prominent. The study suggested that the results showed a significant “need for continued follow-up and surveillance of WTC responders.”

The study also suggested that these instances of cancer were especially notable because of who they were studying:

“WTC responders, like many employed populations, were substantially healthier than the general population at the time when they began their service at the WTC site, and were therefore at lower risk of cancer than the general population, which includes persons who are chronically ill, hospitalized, or otherwise employed. Indeed, the WTC responder population was arguably more fit than most working populations because many were in occupations that required periodic physical and mental fitness tests.” – EHP Study

A growing number of 9/11 responders are seeking compensation for illnesses that they say resulted from continued exposure to toxins at Ground Zero. In 2011, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act became law, allowing for anyone who had suffered harm resulting from the Sept. 11 attacks or the debris removal that followed to receive compensation. Responders can file claims via the Victim Compensation Fund.

So far the VCF has received just over 1,145 claims for compensation, listing cancer and other ailments. Of those claims, 881 were eligible for compensation from the fund. Currently, 115 cancer claimants together have received $50.5 million, with some individual claimants receiving just over $4.1 million.

VCF recipients are said to get 10 percent immediately, and receive the rest of their compensation in 2016.

This story was compiled using information from the New York Post.