Aerodigestive disorders—illnesses affecting the respiratory and digestive systems—are increasingly prevalent among 9/11 first responders and others exposed to the debris during rescue and clean-up operations. Many of these conditions did not manifest until years after the attacks. This has made it difficult for a number of those afflicted to prove that their illnesses are related to the events of 9/11. Fortunately, more recent scientific information has strengthened the correlation between debris exposure and the development of these types of conditions. The WTC Health Program has responded with adjustments to its correlation standards for aerodigestive disorders.
In December of 2013, the WTC Health Program published new guidelines regarding the periods during which the development of aerodigestive symptoms could be correlated to WTC debris exposure. To aid in proving the connection to 9/11, the guidelines divide conditions into the following categories and timeframes:
- Obstructive airway diseases like asthma and chronic respiratory disorder must have manifested within five years of exposure.
- Upper respiratory diseases like chronic rhinosinusitis, nasopharyngitis and laryngitis must have manifested within five years of exposure.
- Interstitial lung diseases that include internal scarring of the lungs can manifest at any time.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) that develops alongside one of the previously-mentioned respiratory conditions must manifest within five years.
- GERD without a companion respiratory condition must manifest within one year.
Extensive research has finally convinced WTC Health Program administrators that aerodigestive conditions can still be linked to WTC rubble exposure even when the symptoms do not arise until years later. If you have been diagnosed with one of these conditions, a dedicated WTC Health Program attorney at Barasch & McGarry can review your case and help determine if you qualify for benefits.