With the 12th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks approaching, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has released statistics showing that many are still suffering from the attack over a decade later.
According to the NIOSH, 1,140 responders and people living near the World Trade Center (WTC) at the time of the attack have been diagnosed with WTC-related cancer. This number is 15% higher than the cancer rate of the general population. As if that isn’t bad enough, doctors say the number of cancer cases the NIOSH is aware of is likely just a fraction of the total.
“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,” said Dr. Jim Melius, chairman of the 9/11 Health Watch board for the WTC Responder Medical Program. “Because of the carcinogens in the air at Ground Zero, people who were exposed are vulnerable. And with cancer, there is a delay.”
The types of cancer being diagnosed vary, but skin cancer appears to the most commonly diagnosed form. The top five most diagnosed cancers are:
- Non-Melanoma skin cancer – 156 cases
- Melanoma of skin – 117 cases
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – 112 cases
- Thyroid – 97 cases
- Leukemia – 76 cases
Several responders that have been diagnosed with cancer spoke with the NY Daily News recently.
“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,” said Marty Cervillione, an engineer with the city’s Design and Construction Department.
Cervillione spent three months at Ground Zero while piles of rubble were still smoldering after the towers collapsed. He has been diagnosed with gastroesophageal cancer.
“I think about the guys who passed away and I am fortunate,” said Detective Pulley, an NYPD officer who spent months at Ground Zero. “Yeah, I have kidney cancer, but I am still here with my family. If God forbid we were ever attacked again, I would still do the same thing.”
Tina Engel, an Oncology Nurse at a WTC Clinic, has seen a dozen confirmed cases of WTC-related cancer in only two months of work.
“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.”