9/11 World Trade Center Health Program Will Fund Cancer Care

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Frank Schwere

Rescue workers searching for victims at Ground Zero after WTC collapse

Survivors of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, as well as the first responders, construction workers and volunteers who helped rescue and recover 9/11 victims and clean up the site, have even more reason to be hopeful today. The World Trade Center Health Program, a federally financed fund that pays for treatment and compensation for those who became ill following the attacks, announced on Monday that it had added 50 types of cancer to its list of covered ailments.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 was originally established to aid people who worked at Ground Zero or lived, worked or attended school in the immediate area. The Act was named after New York City police detective James Zadroga, who died after working at the site.

The fund had previously covered care for people with ailments less serious than cancer, including asthma, acid reflux disease and chronic sinus irritation. But workers at the site have lobbied for years to get cancer added to the list, arguing that the toxic dust that erupted from Ground Zero had contributed to tumors in police officers, firefighters, construction workers and others who worked there.

(MORE: Study Finds Higher Rate of Cancer in 9/11 Firefighters)

While there is still little scientific evidence to connect exposure to World Trade Center dust with cancer, an advisory panel including doctors, union officials and community advocates recommended that the program add cancer coverage, arguing that it was plausible that the toxins in the ash and soot could have contributed to some cancers in people who suffered heavy exposure.

Program administrator Dr. John Howard announced on Monday the change to the program will go into effect 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

Currently, about 40,000 9/11 responders and survivors receive monitoring and 20,000 get treatment under the 9/11 health program, according to ABC News. There’s some concern that adding cancer to the list of covered illnesses may exhaust the $4.3 billion program’s resources, since its funding will not increase.

(MORE: How We Cope: What Addiction Rates After 9/11 Tell Us)

See a list of the cancers now covered by the WTC Health program here. If you believe you are eligible for health care or compensation from the program, visit www.cdc.gov/wtc or call 888-982-4748 for information on how to apply.