The program was established after the 2010 James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was passed by Congress to help workers whose health was affected by the tragedy.
Rob Serra told the NBC that he was one of the people who joined the first responders in digging out chunks of building debris. He had just got out of the academy on Sept. 10, 2001, at the age of 21 with no prior experience in firefighting.
Serra, like many others, was told the air was safe to breathe even though the dust they inhaled was filled with cement, asbestos, lead, glass fibers, dioxins, and other chemicals.
“You figure two buildings full of glass, asbestos, steel. You could taste it,” he said.
He has had to endure surgical procedures on his sinuses to remove growing polyps. Serra said that he has had signs of brain damage, including trouble walking. But what he fears most of all is that cancer maybe on the horizon, NBC reported.
The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) found that 9/11 firefighters have about twice the risk of developing multiple myeloma. According to the CDC, myeloma is a cancer made of white blood cells that grow too much that they form a tumor in bone marrow.
Dr. Gaetane Michaud, a lung health specialist at New York University, said that many people were exposed to the dust but may not know their health is at risk or that assistance is available to them, NBC reported.
“I feel heartbroken to know that if at the lowest number, we’re saying there are about 400,000 people that should be benefiting from the World Trade resources, and about 80,000 are actually benefiting from them,” Michaud stated.
She added that lung cancer isn’t the only cancer that is causing problems. Others include, breast cancers, esophageal cancers, and thyroid cancers. Michaud states that these people should be screened and taken care of.
These health issues are debilitating, particularly for first responders as it has prevented some of them from continuing their careers.
One of them is Elizabeth Wilson who is now a retired bus driver due to the health issues from helping at Ground Zero. The 59-year-old’s health problems have been certified to have been caused by the dust from 9/11. Her illnesses include nodules, potential precancerous growths, asthma, acid reflux, and many others health issues.
Wilson told NBC that she never wore a face mask and only wore protective gear for some of the time.
She said she was supposed to be fitted with a respirator but when Christine Todd Whitman said on TV that the air was safe, Wilson didn’t end up using her mask.
“It was like a cloud,” Wilson said. “You couldn’t see your hand in front of you, it was so bad.”
She added that there was so much dust on her clothes in the initial days and weeks that she would put them in trash bags and throw them out instead of washing them.
The 2010 James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act has three support programs:
- The September 11 Fund: Eligible applicants have until Dec. 18, 2020 to make a claim, dates are here.
- The World Trade Center Health Program: No deadlines
- The World Trade Center (WTC) Health Registry: Enrollments are now closed.
The website says, just because an individual has applied for one program, doesn’t mean you have applied for others.