First responders to World Trade Center have suffered major medical problems, both physical — caused by exposure to toxic dust — and mental. Some 1,000 deaths have been linked to illnesses caused by the environmental hazards at Ground Zero.
Now, following an advisory committee’s recommendation, the National Institute for Occupational Safety has announced that more than 50 types of cancer will now be covered by the health care program for 9/11 first responders. The BBC reports the decision entitles 70,000 surviving emergency service workers and other survivors to free care. Compensation for cancer was held up because there was debate over whether there is a direct link between first responders and cancer risk. However, as ABC News reported in September 2011, there is a clear link between the two:
Those who worked at the WTC site seem to be at increased risk of cancer, especially thyroid cancer, melanoma and lymphoma. According to a study released of nearly 10,000 New York firefighters (half of whom worked at the WTC site), those from the site are 32 percent more likely to have cancer.
John Howard, administrator of the World Trade Center Health Program, said Monday’s announcement marked “an important step in the effort to provide needed treatment and care to 9/11 responders and survivors.” Most prior compensation was only for respiratory diseases caused by dust and debris. The cancers to be covered now include lung, colorectal, breast, bladder, leukemia, melanoma and all childhood cancers.