As the nation pauses to remember the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, we must also not forget the first responders who rushed to Ground Zero in New York City. These brave men and women risked their lives to save others, and many of them are still dealing with the emotional and physical effects of that day.
Chicago First Responders Took Action
In the hours and days that followed the attacks, first responders from across the country rushed to the scene to offer their assistance. Among them were a group of nearly 500 Chicago firefighters and first responders who traveled to New York to aid in the rescue efforts. These firefighters worked tirelessly for days, sifting through the ash and rubble of the World Trade Center in search of survivors.
Occupational Disease and Illnesses Sustained Due to Rescue Efforts
In the months and years after the 9/11 attacks, many first responders began to experience health problems. It was estimated that more than 400 tons of toxic debris were released into the air following the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. Due to this exposure, many developed respiratory illnesses, digestive disorders, mental health problems and various forms of cancer.
Aerodigestive disorders are a type of disorder that affects the lungs and digestive tract. They can be caused by exposure to toxins, irritants, or other substances. Exposure to the toxins released during the 9/11 attacks has been linked to an increased risk of developing aerodigestive disorders. Common examples (and the number of responders currently affected) include:
- Asthma – 13,830 are presently affected.
- Chronic rhinosinusitis – 28,503 are presently affected.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) – 26,330 are presently affected.
- Sleep apnea – 15,566 are presently affected.
According to data, complaints of respiratory issues began to develop within 1-60 days of the attacks. Complaints of these issues also increased 2-8 years later.
The dust and debris from the collapsed buildings contained several known carcinogens, including asbestos, lead and mercy. Studies of those who were exposed have found higher rates of certain types of cancer. The most prevalent types of cancer in 9/11 first responders are:
- Non-melanoma skin cancer
- Prostate cancer
Cancer diagnoses rose in the 2-10 years that followed, while other cancers took longer to develop, some being diagnosed more than 20 years later. More than 12,000 first responders currently registered in the World Trade Center Health Program are presently afflicted by these cancers. To date, more than 1,300 have died.
For some, the events of that day were just too traumatizing, and they have never been able to fully recover. Others may have been able to move on, but they still struggle with anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Current Legislation Protecting First Responders
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was passed in 2010 and reauthorized in 2015. It is one of the main pieces of legislation supporting 9/11 first responders. The Act provides health care and compensation (through the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund) to those who were exposed to the 9/11 terrorist attacks until 2090.
The Zadroga Act also saw the creation of the World Trade Center Health Program, which provided testing and treatment for those suffering from the illnesses and diseases that developed due to the attacks.
Another piece of legislation is the Protecting America’s First Responders Act, which allows responders or family members to file claims for death or disability benefits under certain circumstances.
Protecting Chicago’s First Responders
If you are a first responder who has been diagnosed with an occupational disease or illness, Anesi Ozmon can help you navigate the legal system and get the benefits you deserve. We understand the unique challenges that first responders face, and we will work tirelessly to get you the compensation you need.
If you are a first responder that is suffering from an occupational disease, contact us today at (312) 779-6610 or fill out our form online!