We’ve been writing about the dangers of fighting fires that go beyond the frightening act of stepping into a burning building.
It’s the unseen carcinogens that have proven to be just as dangerous. Research and studies reveal a higher risk of firefighters contracting various cancers than the general population.
Now comes the news that 17 years after the 9/11 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, new victims continue to emerge — and officials are now concerned a fund established to help those suffering from 9/11-related illnesses could be in danger of drying up.
They’re regular people, too, girls exposed to the dust and debris from the World Trade Center devastation are now young women with breast cancer.
“Looking at the data more recently, I’m starting to get a little concerned,” Rupa Bhattacharyya, the Victims’ Compensation Fund special master, told the New York Daily News. “There are diseases with long latency periods. Mesothelioma is one that is talked about often, and you won’t even see it for 15 or 20 years. We won’t see those claims for a while.”
Tens of thousands of people inhaled toxic dust at Ground Zero in the days and weeks after the Islamic terror attacks leveled the Twin Towers, desperately searching for survivors and beginning the daunting cleanup. And year after year, a staggering number of those workers have come forward with 9/11-related illnesses.
Officials running the compensation fund have reviewed 39,502 claims for this year as of Aug. 31 — a nearly 28 percent increase from last year’s total, the New York Daily News reported. An estimated 20,000 claims have been approved in 2018.
The difficulty, however, is in determining how much money each person will receive. Those who have been approved this year could receive up to $200,000.
The $7.3 billion 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, created to provide financial assistance to those who suffer from illnesses related to the attack and the toxic dust at Ground Zero, has already paid out $4 billion, leaving about $3 billion until the fund expires in 2020.
“I’m pretty confident that they will run out of money,” John Feal, founder of the FealGood Foundation, said in making the rounds of TV and newspapers on the 9/11 anniversary. “But I don’t think people should be concerned right now. I bet my one kidney that we will get the VCF extended.”
Feal added: “There are people from every state. 432 congressional districts were represented at Ground Zero during the clean-up and the recovery. Many of these men and women, close to 100,000 are now in the World Trade Center Health Program across the country, 40 percent have more than two illnesses.”
Uniformed Fire Officers Association President Jake Lemonda, in a news conference on Monday, said more than 1,000 firefighters who were at ground zero have been diagnosed with cancer or a respiratory disease. At least 182 firefighters died from 9/11-related illnesses.