Unforeseen health consequences from toxic 9/11 dust have been on the rise for 16 years since September 11th, 2001. Even more shocking; most of the impacted individuals were only caught in the dust cloud or exposed for less than 60 minutes. As a result, many have come down with a host of devastating health conditions ranging from the rarest of cancers to a variety of respiratory diseases—sometimes occurring simultaneously.
Logically, the next questions many ask is: What should one do if sickened by World Trade Center toxic debris exposure?
Flashback to 2010. President Barack Obama signed into law the Zadroga Act, a law that provides compensation and healthcare for the impacted individuals and families to help alleviate pain and suffering. Through ratification of the Zadroga Act, the government also birthed two programs known as the VCF and the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP). However, though created by the same Act, these programs differ in objectives. The Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) primarily focuses on providing monetary compensation for physical health conditions, while the WTCHP provides free healthcare to those who are sick or who have psychological illnesses.
According to the government’s statistics, there were over 400,000 people in downtown Manhattan exposed to the WTC toxins between September 11, 2001 and May 30, 2002: 25,000 residents, 325,000 office workers, teachers, and students, and 80,000 responders. While there are differences in criteria for the “disaster area” between the WTCHP (South of Houston Street and western Brooklyn) and VCF (South of Canal Street), both programs agree on one major point: everyone was exposed to the same toxic dust. Hence, it is no surprise that first responders are not the only people who were affected by 9/11 toxic exposure. Students, teachers, residents, workers, and volunteers were also all affected.
On February 07, 2018, an open forum was held in Manhattan Public High School Stuyvesant High School in order to create a dialogue for discussing physical health issues experienced daily by individuals within the exposure zone. 9/11 Victims Rights Attorney Michael Barasch, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, 9/11 Environmental Action Director Kimberly Flynn and four students spoke.
In the Sixth Annual Report and released by Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya, on February 09, 2018, the VCF reported that upwards of 80,000 people have registered with the World Trade Center Health Program and 32,689 people have filed a claim with the VCF seeking monetary compensation for their physical conditions. The numbers are expected to increase as more people are diagnosed with cancer and more people die.
While the VCF was funded with $7.3 billion and continues to provide monetary compensation, this governmentally funded program is supposed to close at the end of 2020. It will need to be reauthorized by Congress.
To date, the VCF has awarded $3.3 billion to 35,000 people. Thousands of claims are pending. It is critical that those in the downtown exposure zone between 9/11 and May, 2002 continue to be made aware of the resources available to them. Please spread the word to anyone who was exposed – especially to those who now live outside of the New York City area.