Today marks the deadline to register for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. The fund was set up to offer compensation to first responders and survivors of the attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania who developed health issues related to the attack and totals $2.8 billion in relief to people who were affected.

Anyone who has health issues they believe are associated with the attack on the World Trade Center and the subsequent toxins released from the collapse are eligible to register for compensation. People who believe they may develop health issues in the future may also register.

People who wish to register for the Victim Compensation Fund must currently register by phone or through the fund website at www.vcf.gov. There are special cases where citizens may register after the October 3, 2013 deadline. These cases are predominantly available to those who discovered their illness after October 3, 2011, in which case they have two years from the time they discovered their illness to apply.

Unknowingly, responders were exposed to an incredible array of toxins that were ejected into the air upon the collapse of the World Trade Centers. The toxic dust that erupted through lower Manhattan produced toxins such as benzene and asbestos. Most first responders and survivors were unaware of the health implications, breathing the toxic dust without respirators or masks in most cases. In the days following the attack, EPA Chief Christine Todd Whitman declared the air was safe to breathe only one week after 9/11, exposing thousands of residents to airborne carcinogens.

In regards specifically to asbestos, Whitman said, “There appears to be no significant levels of asbestos dust in the air in New York City.” This statement was made only two days after September 11th. Whitman’s statement was technically correct but was only based on limited testing done mostly in Brooklyn and Jersey City, not Manhattan.

The asbestos released into the air was one of the most prominent concerns resulting from the collapse of the Twin Towers. The lower columns of the towers were coated with asbestos when construction began in the 1960s. Despite the risk of exposing residents and responders to these toxins, the overall effect of the toxins was disputed in government agencies such as the EPA. Essentially, they knew asbestos was present, and they knew there was a palpable risk to people in the area. The issue up for debate was whether or not the levels of asbestos were significant enough to justify keeping the city closed.

When it came to making a determination about the threat, officials seemingly relied on speculation in regards to the danger of public asbestos exposure. In the collapse of the World Trade Centers, somewhere between 400 and 1,000 tons of asbestos showered residents and first responders. However, the public was consistently misled about the potential danger of toxins such as asbestos.

Tests conducted by the EPA, other governmental agencies and private agencies confirmed the level of asbestos in the air warranted a significant threat.

Reporting on the health risks assumed by residents, Juan Gonzalez said most residents remained unaware of governmental negligence because the “specialization of environmental and product science and the complexity of government regulation relating to asbestos and other carcinogens made it simply impossible for individual workers and residents downtown to independently gauge the risks they faced.”

Fortunately, concerned members of congress came together to form the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The Zadroga Act contains the outline for the Victim Compensation Fund. The fund was expanded last year to include victims of over 50 types of cancer, including mesothelioma. This is an extremely important victory considering the latency period involved with mesothelioma.

Given the amount of asbestos and the potential hazard to residents, it is not a stretch to assume cases of mesothelioma among those exposed during the 9/11 attacks will rise. Any residents, first responders, or survivors are encouraged to register for the Victim Compensation Fund regardless of their current health status. The fund covers health issues that may arise in the future thus securing compensation for those who may develop mesothelioma years from now.

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    About the Writer, Andrew Devine

    Andrew Devine is a contributing writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He has developed an interest in educating patients and their families on everything from new treatments to what to expect after diagnosis.