We have long written that rescue and recovery workers who responded to the September 11th World Trade Center (WTC) terrorist attacks may be at an increased risk of certain types of cancer.
More than 1,000 first responders have been diagnosed with cancer, according to The New York Daily News, and that number is expected to increase. As we’ve explained, researchers have said that exposure to dust, smoke, and other chemicals that lingered following the 9/11 attacks, may have put those who nearby or involved in the cleanup at risk for developing a number of diseases, including cancer.
“You get a lump in your throat when you first have to tell your wife,” said NYPD Detective Amadeo Pulley, 47, who was diagnosed with kidney cancer in May. “But I told my family and two kids I’m gonna be fine. We will get through this,” he added, according to The Daily News.
Nearly 12 years after the terrorist attacks, a study from the Mount Sinai Medical Center revealed a 15 percent increase in cancer rates in first responders, when compared to people not exposed to the toxins at Ground Zero, The Daily News reported. As of last month, 1,140 responders and people who worked, lived, or went to school in lower Manhattan have been certified to have been diagnosed with a WTC-related cancer by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
Experts believe that this is just a small part of a larger issue. “There are more cases out there, because we just know of the people in our government-funded medical programs, not those who have been treated by their private doctors,” Dr. Jim Melius, chairman of the steering committee for the WTC Responder Medical Program and a 9/11 Health Watch board member, told The Daily News. “Because of the carcinogens in the air at Ground Zero, people who were exposed are vulnerable. And with cancer, there is a delay,” he added.
“Sadly enough, I am here just two months, and I have identified a dozen new cancer cases, and I have another 25 patients whose diagnostic test results are pending. The good news is that with the new [Zadroga] federal funding, I get what I need when I need it for our patients. Their biopsies and scans are turned around in a week. Cancer trumps everything,” oncology nurse, Tina Engel, with North Shore Hospital’s WTC clinic in Queens, told The Daily News.
Engineer Marty Cervellione, 63, of the city’s Design and Construction Department developed respiratory and gastric reflux in the initial years. He was at Ground Zero from September 14th through November 15th, 2001. Later, internal bleeding led to a 2011 diagnosis of gastroesophageal cancer. He underwent a number of chemotherapy rounds in 2011; a new spot was discovered this year. Surgeons at Stony Brook University Hospital removed his right adrenal gland and a portion of his liver. He still has a month of treatment remaining, according to the Daily News. “It was always in the back of everyone’s mind we were in jeopardy given the contamination down there, but the entire world was calling on you, it felt so good to serve, there was no wanting to escape,” he said.
Detective Pulley, diagnosed with kidney cancer, underwent surgery to remove most of his left kidney last month. He has a good prognosis and just a 5 percent likelihood of recurrence. “I think about the guys who passed away and I am fortunate,” Pulley told The Daily News. Detective Pulley spent 50 days at Ground Zero and was part of the arson and explosion squad. Some 65,000 people, including first responders, who were sickened due to 9/11 exposure, are now part of the nationwide WTC medical monitoring and treatment program.
The Zadroga Act, which was passed in December 2010, reopened the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund for five years to provide payment for job and economic losses for first responders, those trapped in the buildings, and local residents, who suffered illness or injuries related to the toxic dust. On the eve of the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, federal health officials finally acknowledged a link between toxic Ground Zero dust and cancer. After much debate and at around the same time, the federal government finally agreed, and NIOSH announced, that more than 50 different types of cancers would be covered under the Zadroga Act. The decision will allow financially strapped Ground Zero first responders, who’ve since developed cancer, to access funds to cover their soaring healthcare costs.