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9/11 responders, survivors should register for health monitoring

Five years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a New York City police detective died of respiratory failure caused by exposure to toxic chemical fumes at Ground Zero. Tragically, an unknown number of others who lived near or responded to the emergencies at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, have also died from toxic exposure.

Emergency services workers from around the country responded to those emergencies, often risking their lives and working for days to save others. Unfortunately, even when their illnesses were immediately apparent, some weren’t covered by workers’ compensation. It wasn’t until 2011 that the World Trade Center Health Program was signed into law, and asbestos-related illnesses weren’t added to the list of covered diseases until 2012.

The WTC Health Program provides health monitoring and treatment for all those who develop, or who may develop, any of 65 diseases from working at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon or the Shanksville site. That includes emergency responders, healthcare professionals and medical examiners, recovery, demolition, debris-removal and cleanup workers, and others who provided support services in the aftermath of the attacks. It doesn’t matter whether you were on the job or a volunteer. The program also covers those who were residents of New York City on 9/11.

Asbestos was a particular concern on 9/11 and during its aftermath. The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization estimates that more than 2,000 tons of asbestos blanketed Lower Manhattan when the towers collapsed. The ADAO says that firefighters who worked at Ground Zero have been shown to have contracted 19 percent more cancers than firefighters who did not.

Clearly, anyone who provided any kind of service at the attack sites should register with the WTC Health Program, particularly since workers’ compensation coverage may not be available. The program covers those who worked on 9/11-related activities anytime between 9/11 and May 31, 2003.

“Whether you’re sick or not,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York, who initially sponsored the program, “remember to register.”

The program is administrated by the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Affected individuals can reach the program by phone at 888-982-4748 or by email at WTC@cdc.gov. Eligibility information can be found at the How To Apply To The Program page of the program’s website.

Sources: 

  • The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, “The 9/11 Tragedy Continues, 12 Years Later,” Linda Reinstein, Sept. 11, 2013
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Trade Center Health Program, “How To Apply To The Program,” Updated July 1, 2013

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