After the twin towers fell, health officials couldn’t have predicted the full and eventual impact of the toxic dust that enveloped lower Manhattan. The reason? 9/11 cancer latency.
Cancer doesn’t generally begin to grow immediately after a person is exposed to a carcinogenic, or cancer-causing, substance. The time between initial exposure and the diagnosable onset of the resulting cancer is known as the ‘latency period’.
The latency period varies for each type of cancer. For example, the latency period for many blood cancers may start at only five months, whereas for prostate cancer it can be 15 or 20 years.
For many types of 9/11 cancer, latency periods tend to be lengthy.
Congress responds to the 9/11 cancer latency issue.
As diagnosed incidences of cancer grew among Ground Zero responders and nearby residents and workers in the years after the terrorist attack, the horrible long-term scope of human suffering became clear.
The original 2010 Zadroga Act, which created the 9/11 Victim’s Compensation Fund and the World Trade Center Health Program, was set to expire in 2015. It initially covered the immediate injuries and illnesses incurred by survivors and first responders. However after much discussion and research, a number of cancers were added to the list of eligible maladies in 2012.
President Obama signed the re-authorized Zadroga Act in January of 2016. The Victim Compensation Fund included enhanced long-term testing and care for cancer sufferers, the second wave of WTC victims.
Read more about the Zadroga Act and the Victim’s Compensation Fund.
The problem continues – and continues to grow.
Sadly, new cancer diagnoses are still on the rise, and are expected to rise further before the trend begins to abate. The World Trade Center Health Organization is the entity that certifies whether a person’s cancer can likely be traced to the carcinogenic dust of 9/11, and therefore whether they are eligible for compensation for medical and related expenses.
Many people who lived and worked in lower Manhattan during and after the 2001 tragedy now live in other states, such as New Jersey and Florida. They too are eligible for benefits if their cancer is determined to be caused by 9/11 events.
Up to 70 types of cancer have been identified as being 9/11 related. Read about the most common 9/11 cancer types, including prostate cancer and non-melanoma skin cancer.
9/11 cancer latency and VCF eligibility.
Due to the 9/11 cancer latency factor, as well as the frequently life-long impact of cancer, eligible victims who file their claim with the VCF by the 2020 deadline will covered until the year 2090.
When various types of cancer were added to the VCF eligibility list, minimum latency periods for each type were determined. A type of cancer that is diagnosed before its minimum latency period could be ruled by the VCF to not be a result of exposure to carcinogens released upon the towers’ collapse, but rather be the result some earlier exposure. Therefore it would not be covered by the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.
The official specifics of cancer coverage and those latency periods are subject to change as researchers learn more about cancer in general, as well as the particular health effects of the carcinogenic cloud on September 11. Complicating official assessments and eligibility rules is the fact that latency periods in individual cases can vary, based on age, gender, general health and other factors.