In coming weeks, a special master is expected to be named by the Justice Department to oversee the multi-billion fund established to provide compensation and health monitoring to rescue workers and NY residents harmed by toxic dust and smoke from the 9/11 attacks. The special master’s appointment is a key step to implementing the new law.
The special master will develop program rules and procedures within the guidelines outlined in the legislation and will decide how to distribute the $2.8 billion to people who say that they have developed illnesses from exposure to harmful debris and dust at ground zero, according to The New York Times.
The law, passed by Congress in December, also provides $1.4 billion over five years for ongoing monitoring and treatment of illnesses stemming from exposure to toxic dust and debris at ground zero. Over time, the monitoring program may help define what exactly qualifies as a 9/11-related illness. Several groups are currently conducting studies of cancer deaths among 9/11 workers. If research shows a cancer connection, then workers with those cancers would be eligible for compensation.
Researchers at the Mt. Sinai Medical Center recently reported in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine that NY emergency personnel who responded after the World Trade Center terrorist attacks have shown an increased incidence of pulmonary inflammation. More than 50,000 men and women were exposed to products of combustion, asbestos and particulare matter after the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks.
A medical study published last year in The New England Journal of Medicine reported that New York firefighters and rescue workers who worked at ground zero still have significantly abnormal lung function nearly a decade later. Some dust from the collapsed World Trade Center towers contained asbestos and other toxics, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Asbestos is associated with development of lung cancer and mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung. Symptoms of mesothelioma are slow to develop, typically taking 20 to 40 years to appear after exposure.
The guidelines for people to apply for compensation from the fund could be finalized by September, The New York Times reported. Anyone who files a claim with the fund would have to waive their legal right to file a lawsuit against the entities including private contractors that ran the rescue and cleanup operations in order to receive compensation.