How To Support 9/11 First Responders Facing Increased Risk of Cancerposted on 09/09/2011 by Cate Conroy
On 9/11 when two planes collided with the World Trade Center, the nation held its collective breath, helpless, watching as impossibly fearless firefighters and police officers surged toward the destruction. The images that flashed across our television screens that day seemed horrifying beyond our wildest imagination; a nightmare playing out in real-life.
For many of the firefighters, police officers, paramedics, EMTs and others that so bravely arrived on the scene that day, the nightmare continues even a decade later. In the years following the 9/11 attacks an overwhelming number of cancer cases have been reported amongst firefighters and police officers who worked at Ground Zero.
According to a recent report in the Lancet Medical Journal firefighters who worked at Ground Zero are 19% more likely to have cancer than their colleagues who did not work at the site. The number of NYPD officers that have died of cancer more than doubles the number of officers that died the day of the 9/11 attacks. As they sifted through the rubble rescuing victims trapped beneath the concrete, the first responders were exposed to a toxic cloud of dust that included carcinogens such as asbestos, benzene, and mercury.
However, cancer is not currently on the list of illnesses covered by the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, an act that set aside $4.3 billion to help cure, compensate and monitor those suffering from health problems associated with the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath. Although the Lancet study establishes the link between the firefighter’s toxic exposure at Ground Zero and the string of cancer cases among New York firefighters, the study alone may not be enough to persuade federal officials to include cancer as one of the diseases under the Zadroga Act.
According to many medical researchers it may take 20 to 40 years to prove that the cancers are more than just a sad coincidence. However, that won’t stop 9/11 workers advocates who hope the study can convince policymakers to provide funding for medical bills and compensation to those rescue workers suffering from post 9/11 cancer.
Until then, the firefighters and police officers of 9/11 may have to finance their costly battles with cancer out-of-pocket. As this CNN article details, while some first responders get help, others don’t. Former 9/11 fireman Ralph Geidel has been forced to spend $100,000 on his medical treatment after he was diagnosed with tongue and neck cancer in 2003 and there are many more first-responders just like him.
Depending on whether you are interested in helping an individual or simply supporting these heroes as whole, there are a few ways that we can help. If you know an individual in need of help, set up a GiveForward page for them. Often it can be tough for people to ask for help when they need it, but as our co-founder and COO Ethan so eloquently explains here, it is OK to ask for help when you need it.
If you are interested in contributing to a nonprofit, a foundation has been set up to help support the families of the fallen heroes here: http://www.firehero.org/ or check out the U.S. First Responders Association for more ways to help. In addition, please be sure to check out this guide for donating to 9/11 charities to make sure that donations go where intended.
Ten years ago, we watched helplessly as courageous firefighters and police officers rescued thousands from the rubble. Now, it’s our time to rescue them.