It is now estimated that over 2,500 people who worked among the debris of the destroyed World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, have contracted cancer.
The New York Post reports a growing number of them are seeking compensation for their illnesses from the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, or VCF.
The new tally, from the World Trade Center Health Program at Mount Sinai Hospital, includes 1,655 cancer cases reported from the police, sanitation workers and other city employees who frantically searched the rubble for survivors in the days after the attack.
That number does not include the 863 firefighters and emergency responders the New York Fire Department said Friday are also being treated for 9/11-related cancers. The fire department manages its own World Trade Center health fund.
The new total of 2,513 is more than double the figure reported less than a year ago.
The New York Daily News reported in September 2013 that 1,140 workers at the time had cancers certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to have been caused by the working in the attack’s aftermath.
Dr. Jim Melius, who is chairman of the steering committee for the World Trade Center Responder Medical Program, said at that time he expected the number to rise.
“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,” Melius said. “Because of the carcinogens in the air at ground zero, people who were exposed are vulnerable. And with cancer, there is a delay.”
The growing number of cancer cases is causing delays for victims awaiting their payouts from the health funds.
One retired fire captain, who is now 63, recently had his $1.5 million compensation package expedited because he is not expected to survive his inoperable pancreatic cancer and lung disease.
“I knew that day that a lot of us would get sick,” he recalled in May while testifying before a VCF panel.
He retired in 2008 after his lung disease left him unable to work.
“I was a very active guy. Now there’s not much I can do,” he said.
Last year doctors found a tumor growing around some arteries that doctors were not able to remove without putting the man’s life at risk.
He told the board he was thankful for his compensation, which mostly makes up for lost wages and health expenses.
“I’m hoping they rush more cases like mine, where we’re not expected to last long,” he said.
So far only 115 cancer victims have received compensation. That represents $50.5 million in payouts ranging from $400,000 to $4.1 million. The VCF said it was unsure how many victims had died before being paid.
Studies show that cancers, including prostate cancer, thyroid cancer, leukemia and multiple myeloma, all occur in 9/11 workers at rates higher than the rest of the population.