In yesterday's post, I noted that the CDC was expanding the list of diseases that are attributable to the toxic dust as a result of the attack on the World Trade Center. Last night, the information began to hit my medical feeds.
For many years, there has been discussion about the disproportionate numbers of cancer diagnoses, particularly among members of the FDNY, as compared to the general population. According to the latest information, firefighters and first responders who worked rescue and recovery, debris removal or demolition and "exposed civilians" have a higher burden of mental and physical illness than the rest of the population. I don't really think it was necessary for tons of research spanning ten years or more to draw such an obvious conclusion. Mental illness issues seem to be a no brainer.
Physical illness, in the initial months, was restricted to only illness or disease that was respiratory in nature. Then, cancer reared its ugly head. Those heroes who ran in as others ran away were being denied access to medical care under the federally funded program designed to pay for those whose health was compromised as a direct result of the attacks.
After a 2011 study confirmed what people had long suspected, all of that will now change. Over a year ago, it was reported that firefighters who survived had a 19% higher risk of developing cancer in the seven years immediately following 9/11. According to one journal, at least one thousand people have died as a result of illnesses directly attributable to the attacks.
What has me completely astonished is the fact that under the new recommendations a substantial number of diseases were added and included on this list are FIFTY new types of cancers. Basically, every conceivable cancer with the exception of pancreatic, prostate and brain are now covered for those who spent specific amounts of time in the lower Manhattan area in the months after the attacks. Anyone who was in the dust or in the dust cloud is automatically covered.
It is estimated that an additional 70,000 people are now eligible for free medical care due to the expanded guidelines. I doubt this list was compiled haphazardly. I'm sure there were plenty of statistical comparative analyses before the list was expanded to include so many new cancers.
I remember walking out of my home two days after the attack. I recall thinking there must have been a fire somewhere in the area. The assault on my nose and my eyes was immediate. My eyes glazed over and my nose and throat burned from the toxins in the air. I was 23 miles away from the site. It took me several minutes before it dawned on me, "the air is blowing the smoldering fumes in this direction." I still remember the smell and I can still feel the sting and I can still remember thinking this could not be good for those who were on that pile for endless hours, digging through the rubble of three fallen buildings.
Yes, three. Beside the obvious, #7 WTC which was a 47 story building, collapsed into itself shortly after 5PM on 9/11. The inside of the building was consumed with uncontrolled fires. Sprinkler systems were not working due to damaged pipe from the collapse of the towers. The fires raging inside #7 were from debris hurled into that building from the collapse of the two main towers. By 5PM, hundreds of rescue workers were on site, enveloped in another dust plume. That building, despite its massive size, was merely a parenthetical event but damn, 47 floors is not simply a footnote.
At the end of the day, we now have tens of thousands of people ill and anyone who was in or around that area who develops one of these cancers, likely yet another victim. These numbers will continue to grow for many years to come. To those who say eleven years is long enough, it's time to move on, I can't move on. Too many are now looking over their shoulders much the same way many of us with previous cancer diagnosis look over ours.
The current list of cancers? Here you go: