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On International Volunteer Day, Remember the 9/11 Volunteers at Risk of Ground Zero Illnesses

December 5, 2022 | Michael Barasch

December 5 is International Volunteer Day.

The search-and-rescue, recovery, and support teams at Ground Zero on and after 9/11 included thousands of volunteers from every part of the United States.

Among the volunteers were retired or visiting first responders, members of the Red Cross and Salvation Army, religious organizations, and many individual Americans who wanted to help.

That day and the weeks following saw more volunteers than at any time in our nation’s history since the Civil War.

At the time, government officials claimed the air was safe to breathe.

But 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.

9/11 didn’t end on 9/11.

Even as these volunteers were saving lives and supporting the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan, their own future health and safety was threatened by toxins at Ground Zero. 

In fact, exposure to the toxins has been scientifically linked to 68 types of 9/11-related cancers and many respiratory illnesses.

Please note that if you are diagnosed with a 9/11-related illness, your family medical history does not affect your eligibility for free health care or compensation. 

If you were there in Lower Manhattan, the government presumes your illness was the result of exposure to Ground Zero toxins.

If you are diagnosed with any 9/11-related cancer 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)

Through the health program, 9/11 responders and survivors have access to free, comprehensive medical care 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.

If you were there, you have the right to register with the 9/11 VCF – even if currently healthy – and enroll in the WTC Health Program if you are diagnosed with the 9/11-related illness.

For the WTC Health Program, the exposure zone includes 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.

Barasch & McGarry, Lawyers for the 9/11 Community, represents more than 35,000 members of the 9/11 community.

If you were exposed to Ground Zero toxins, you should know your health status. Don’t let a delayed diagnosis become a death sentence.

Visit or call 212-385-8000 today.

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