9/11 First Responders Diagnosed with Mesothelioma Will Soon be Eligible for Compensation
Mesothelioma is a unique and rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos fibers. The “face” of mesothelioma in the United States is typically males aged 65-years-old and older who were exposed to asbestos in the workplace or in the military prior to 1970 when asbestos-containing products were widely used in construction materials and in the military. However, rescue workers at the scene of the 9/11 terrorist attacks were exposed to high levels of asbestos from the toxic dust cloud, and now the government acknowledges those workers are also at risk of contracting mesothelioma.
A ruling issued last week by Dr. John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, could open up to 9/11 cancer victims some of the $4.3 billion set aside to provide health services and compensation for people who develop illnesses linked to 9/11.
Howard is asking for nearly 50 cancers to be included as the diseases recognized in the first responders as caused by the noxious cloud. If approved, the funds would ease the financial burden many of the rescue workers are now facing after contracting cancers. Up until last week the government did not support including cancers among the illnesses related to the clean-up effort.
New York firefighters, emergency workers and others who develop various cancers including mesothelioma could be covered by the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act if “they and their doctors make a plausible case that the disease was connected to the caustic dust,” according to USA Today. Sickened responders could receive free treatment and, possibly, compensation payments.
About 400 tons of asbestos were used in the World Trade Center towers, and upon their collapse, asbestos and other toxic substances such as mercury and lead were released into the air putting workers at risk of mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung, abdomen and heart. Today, close to 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. Many fear that this number will soon begin to climb with 9/11 workers. Mesothelioma has an extended latency period with symptoms sometimes taking more than 20 years to appear.