January is National Thyroid Awareness Month.
If you were there as a first responder or you worked, lived, or studied in Lower Manhattan on or after 9/11, you have a higher risk of developing many respiratory illnesses and 68 different types of cancer resulting from exposure to Ground Zero toxins, including thyroid cancer.
Within days of 9/11, the E.P.A. claimed the air near Ground Zero was safe to breathe.
But 9/11 didn’t end on 9/11.
Later medical research found the air at Ground Zero wasn’t safe – it contained cement dust and particles, asbestos, and chemicals called persistent organic pollutants, many of them known carcinogens.
According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 43,800 new cases of thyroid cancer (11,860 in men and 31,940 in women) were diagnosed in the United States in 2022.
Barasch & McGarry represents nearly 1,000 9/11 first responders and survivors who have developed thyroid cancer, including many young adults who never expected a cancer diagnosis at their age.
Unlike many other cancers, thyroid cancer often occurs in younger adults. Indeed, two in three people diagnosed with thyroid cancer are under the age of 55.
The risk factors for thyroid cancer include exposure to radiation, a diet low in iodine (not a major risk for most Americans), family history, and genetics – as well as Ground Zero exposure after 9/11.
Remember that if you are diagnosed with 9/11-related thyroid cancer, your family medical history and pre-existing conditions will not affect your eligibility for free health care or compensation.
If you were there in Lower Manhattan, the government presumes your cancer was the result of exposure to Ground Zero toxins.
During a physical exam, your doctor will examine your neck to feel for physical changes in your thyroid, such as thyroid nodules, and might ask about your risk factors, such as past exposure to radiation and a family history of thyroid tumors.
If you are diagnosed with thyroid cancer or any other 9/11-related cancers or respiratory illnesses, Barasch & McGarry can help you access resources through the free World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program and the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF).
The health program provides comprehensive medical care to 9/11 victims for their 9/11-related illnesses.
The victim fund offers tax-free awards for pain and suffering, lost earnings, and benefits for surviving spouses and family members.
For the WTC Health Program, the exposure zone consists of all of Manhattan below Houston Street and parts of Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO in Brooklyn.
For the 9/11 VCF, the exposure zone includes the area of Manhattan south of Canal Street and west of Clinton Street.
If you were exposed to Ground Zero toxins, you should know your health status. Don’t let a delayed diagnosis become a death sentence.