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As 9/11 Mesothelioma Fears Rise, Zadroga Act Set to Expire

Among the most memorable images to come out of the terrorist attacks that destroyed New York’s World Trade Center and killed thousands was the photo of Marcy Borders. Borders came to be known as the “Dust Lady” after a picture of her, covered in grey dust, was widely circulated and became emblematic of the destruction of the day.

Borders died recently, 14 years after the catastrophe, of a cancer that she felt certain was caused by exposure to that dust. Experts from the Natural Resources Defense Council have said that there were approximately 300 to 400 tons of asbestos fibers used to construct the buildings, and though the EPA indicated that there would be no long-term danger posed by the dust, people are still afraid of what that exposure may yield in the future. Asbestos is the primary cause of mesothelioma, a rare and always deadly form of cancer that has a minimum latency period of eleven years, with most victims only beginning to show symptoms between twenty and fifty years after exposure.

When the attacks occurred, a victims compensation fund was initially set up for those who had been physically harmed and for the families of those who had been killed, and in 2011 the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was established as an extension of that fund for those who developed cancer as a result of the incident. Now the WTC Health Program is set to expire and the funds will only last for another year unless Congress votes to extend it. Should the fund expire, not only would victims lose access to compensation for their treatment, but it would also bring research into the health impact of the event to a halt.

The latency period of certain cancers – and particularly mesothelioma – has always been problematic for the WTC Health Program. Though the initial program had a set end date, the more researchers learn about the effects of the attack, the more compensation has been extended. A 2013 study showed a conclusive link between cancer and 9/11, and indicated that those who had been highly exposed were more likely to be diagnosed. Dr. Raja Flores chief of thoracic surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center, says that there have been 2,500 cancer cases reported among World Trade Center Rescuers and responders, and he has no doubt that there will be many mesothelioma cases diagnosed in the next forty years.

Lawmakers in Washington are being encouraged by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to renew the bill and continue funding for compensation, but the law is set to expire on September 30, 2015.

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an independent writer, editor and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Her dreams of a writing career were diverted by a need to pay her bills. She spent a few years providing copy for a major retailer, then landed a lucrative career in advertising sales. With college bills for all three of her kids paid, she left corporate America for a return to her original goal of writing. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of interest include health and fitness, medical research, and the law.

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