Survivors to receive nearly full care for 9/11 cancers | News | DW | 10.09.2012
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Survivors to receive nearly full care for 9/11 cancers

The first responders to the September 11 World Trade Center attacks will receive free monitoring and treatment for some 50 forms of cancer. Illnesses related to the attacks have caused an estimated 1,000 deaths.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health announced that the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act will cover all eligible survivors for cancers including colorectal, breast, bladder, leukemia and melanoma, as well as those occurring in childhood. President Barack Obama signed the act into law in 2011. The decision eases concerns over the health toll for September 11 emergency workers.

"They did a magnificent thing, showing not only scientific acumen but also a generosity of spirit," said Dr. Michael Crane, director of the WTC health program at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

The program already covered respiratory diseases such as asthma and pulmonary fibrosis, mental disorders including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and musculoskeletal conditions. However, researchers have known that survivors faced exposure to a complex mixture of chemical agents - including human carcinogens.

The mix included 20,000 gallons (76,000 liters) of jet fuel, 100,000 tons of organic debris, and 100,000 gallons of heating and diesel oil. Toxins included cement dust, glass fibers, asbestos, crystalline silica, metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, pesticides and dioxins: 287 chemicals or groups, the WTC health program reported in 2011.

Though scientists knew that responders had been exposed to toxins, they didn't know whether those had caused cancer. The time between exposure and malignancy can be over 20 years. That cast doubt on whether cancers diagnosed after the attacks were caused by exposure.

First responders' health has been intensely monitored, raising the question of whether closely monitored care had led to more diagnoses rather than genuine September 11-linked cancers. Data on carcinogens in the air around the WTC wasn't collected until days after the attacks.

mkg/mr (AFP, Reuters)