First responders and others who have contracted malignant mesothelioma because of their exposure to asbestos during the 9/11 attacks in New York are now eligible for government compensation under the Zadroga act. The announcement was made by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health on the eve of the 11th anniversary of the attacks.
The Zadroga Act, approved by Congress in 2012, was designed to help those were made sick because of the World Trade Center attack. Initially, the $2.8 billion fund was not available to people who contracted any type of cancer. Scientists had said there was little evidence to suggest that the toxic dust cloud created by the collapse and burning of the two buildings could cause cancer.
But mounting evidence to the contrary convinced lawmakers to reexamine the law. Testing done on the scene in the days after the attacks identified a wide range of carcinogens, including lead, formaldehyde and asbestos, the most common cause of mesothelioma. An estimated 400 tons of asbestos, a popular building material in the 1970’s, was used to build the World Trade Center.
Patient advocacy groups have argued for years that rescue workers who inhaled or ingested carcinogens on 9/11 were at high risk for cancers such as mesothelioma and should be eligible for compensation. According to an article in the New York Daily News, an estimated 400 people have died from 9/11-related cancer. Although there have not yet been any documented 9/11-related mesothelioma cases, they are likely to arise within the next decade or two, due to the long latency of the disease.
In addition to mesothelioma, other cancers covered under the act include thyroid, breast, oral, ovarian, liver, stomach, esophageal and urinary tract. Pancreatic, prostate and brain cancer are still not covered. After the first five years, Congress has allocated another $1.9 billion for people with valid claims. The decision to extend coverage to mesothelioma victims was made by NIOSH director Dr. John Howard on the advice of a 15-member World Trade Center Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee.