Those afflicted with 9/11-related cancers has hit the staggering number of 3,700. This number includes New York Fire Department members, New York policemen, other Ground Zero responders and downtown workers and residents who survived the tragic bombing. Many of these victims of 9/11 have more than one type of cancer. Dr. David Prezant, chief medical officer of the New York Fire Department says more than 2,100 firefighters and EMS personnel have retired on disability, primarily with various types of cancer and lung disease. Forty-four New York Fire Department responders died from cancer related to 9/11, while another 65 died from other World Trade Center-linked illnesses.
Blood cancers as well as thyroid, prostate and colon cancers have been more prevalent among the New York Fire Department members who were first responders during 9/11 than those Fire Department members who were not. As an example, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma struck the Deputy Chief of the FDNY, Thomas Riley, and later formed a tumor behind Riley’s right eye. Riley was on vacation when the 9/11 bombing occurred. He rushed back to New York, leading his troops to Ground Zero. Riley says he and his crew dug for survivors until 3:00 a.m., returning every day for months to search for remains. Riley notes that debris was flying into the eyes of the first responders every day they worked in the area.
Last fall, Riley began experiencing bouts of fatigue, and in December 2014, friends noticed his right eye was drooping. Riley’s doctor diagnosed a lymphatic orbital mass. Radiation has shrunk the tumor, however Riley’s eyes have been left vulnerable to wind, dust and bright light and must use eye drops to deal with the pain. Riley has joined other responders and victims to lobby Congress in an effort to extend the 9/11 Victim’s Compensation Fund which will ensure those affected by 9/11 will receive necessary medical treatment for 9/11-related illnesses.
Lives Continue to Be Claimed by 9/11
In fact, nearly fourteen years after one of the most shocking, heartbreaking events in American History, lives are still being claimed by 9/11. According to Health Watch, 30,000 first responders developed an injury or illness which could be directly linked to 9/11. Nearly nine years after the World Trade Center Bombing, legislation was passed to help these first responders, and later that legislation was re-booted, thanks to the Zadroga Act. Unfortunately, there are still many 9/11 cases pending, and the fund which compensates victims of 9/11 is set to run out of money in 2016. Congress must take action in order to ensure those who suffered 9/11-related illnesses will be compensated rather than leaving them with disabling diseases and illnesses.
How Many 9/11 Victims May Not Be Compensated?
Out of the 19,721 submissions from injured first responders and survivors, 11,770 have been deemed eligible for compensation, 942 have been deemed ineligible, and the remainder have not had a determination made regarding eligibility. Some research indicates the incidence of cancer among survivors and first responders of the 9/11 bombing attack is more than twice as high as among other Americans.
One study examined the health records of 10,000 first responder NY firefighters, finding they were 19 percent more likely to develop cancer than those who were not present at the World Trade Center bombing site. Exposure to the dust, debris and chemicals at the site vastly increased the likelihood of cancer; Dr. Prezant notes the cement dust at Ground Zero had a pH between 10 and 11, meaning it was akin to “inhaling powdered Drano.” It is expected there will be more and more 9/11-related illnesses as time passes, and it is extremely important there is money available to take care of those who develop these illnesses.
We all have a duty to make sure that the sick heroes of 9/11, especially those with 9/11 cancers, have professional legal representation and that this sordid mess does not hurt the ongoing valiant efforts to Extend the 9/11 James Zadroga Act.
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