9/11 firefighters at increased cancer risk, study finds

September 19th, 2011

A new study has found that firefighters who responded to the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center were 19% more likely to have been diagnosed with cancer than those who were not at the site of the terrorist attacks. The study published in The Lancet examined the health of 9/11 firefighters seven years after the attacks took place.

In an article that accompanied the study, The Lancet noted that over 50,000 people—including firefighters, police and construction workers—were exposed to toxic dust and other chemicals at the site of the 9/11 attacks. Few of these workers were exposed for the length or time or with the same intensity as firefighters, the article noted.

President Obama recently signed a bill into law which would help to pay for health care costs and compensation for 9/11 workers. However, because of Republican opposition to the bill, the total cost of the bill was dropped from $6.2 billion to $4.3 billion, and will now only cover workers through 2016, instead of the 2031 date of closure in the original legislation.

Despite the evidence linking 9/11 firefighters to an increased risk of cancer, the new law does not include cancer under its list of covered conditions. Because workers may not begin to show symptoms of some slow-growing cancers—such as mesothelioma—by the 2016 coverage deadline, critics say that the law does not go far enough to cover the health costs of workers who were harmed during their work at Ground Zero.

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