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Did 9/11 Create a Mesothelioma Time Bomb?

More than 70,000 patients — survivors of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, first responders and rescue/recovery workers — have enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program and more than 21,000 are receiving treatment specifically for 9/11-related illnesses. According to USA Today, there are now more than 2,600 WTC Health Program patients with cancer-related illnesses, a number nearly equal to that of the number of people who died on the day of the attacks. It now seems inevitable that deaths among responders due to exposure to toxic conditions at Ground Zero will eclipse the number of immediate fatalities, especially when we consider the long latency period of the most deadly cancers.

In 2013, the WTC Health Program Administrator released a report on the latency period for five groups of cancers eligible for coverage. Four had short latency periods:

  • Leukemia and lymphoma — 0.4 years
  • Childhood cancers — One year
  • Thyroid cancer — 2.5 years
  • Solid cancers — Four years

However, the deadliest of these cancers is also the one with the longest latency period. Mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer resulting from asbestos exposure, ravages the membranes lining the lungs and abdomen. By certain estimates, meso takes at least 11 years to develop. But the administrator’s review of 21 studies on mesothelioma found a median latency period of 32 years, with 96 percent of cases being diagnosed at least 20 years after initial exposure and 33 percent of cases diagnosed 40 years after initial exposure.

The World Trade Center attacks released anywhere from 400 to 2,000 tons of asbestos dust into the air. Workers who labored for months at Ground Zero were exposed to a smoldering cauldron of carcinogenic materials, including pulverized asbestos. We have every reason to believe that as cases of short-latency cancers dwindle, the number of mesothelioma cases will increase dramatically.

At Barasch McGarry Salzman & Penson, our attorneys have been fighting for 9/11 responders since the first signs of illness began to surface. Today, we are at the forefront of the fight for permanent Zadroga Act funding. We understand that responders are still at risk; we want to see you receive the benefits and compensation you deserve. If you have questions about your rights regarding any 9/11-related illness, call us at 888.351.9421 or contact our office online.

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