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Rate of 9/11 responder cancer cases rises to over 2,500

Firefighters help fold the flag as they participate in the ceremonial transfer of the National 9/11 Flag into the The National September 11 Memorial Museum permanent collection on May 21, 2014 in New York City.
Firefighters help fold the flag as they participate in the ceremonial transfer of the National 9/11 Flag into the The National September 11 Memorial Museum permanent collection on May 21, 2014 in New York City.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

An unfortunate side effect of the outpouring of relief efforts following the 9/11 attacks has increased, a new report finds. Last year, Mount Sinai Hospital’s World Trade Center Health Program reported just over 1,100 cases of responders who have developed cancer as a result of their work at Ground Zero, but that number has now doubled to over 2,500.

Of the 2,500 cases being reported this year, 1,655 are comprised of police officers, sanitation workers, and other city employees and volunteers, as tallied by Mount Sinai. The overall total increases dramatically to 2,518 when firefighters and paramedics are included in the figure. The FDNY’s latest tally determined that 863 members currently have “cancers certified for 9/11-related treatment.”

The New York Post notes on Monday that epidemiologists have seen the cancer rate in responders grow at a much higher rate than expected, particularly with certain cancers such as prostate, thyroid, leukemia, and multiple myeloma.

“I knew that day would get a lot of us sick,” an unnamed retired FDNY captain said. The 63 year old worked at Ground Zero for several days after the attacks and reportedly spent months there in total, leading to lung disease and inoperable pancreatic cancer.

The former captain was forced to retire in 2008 due to the effects of lung damage and recently received $1.5 million from the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund after his case was expedited. At the end of last month, the VCF had 1,145 claimants with cancer, many of whom also listed other ailments. 881 have been approved for compensation, while the rest remain under review. 115 patients have been awarded compensation so far, adding up to a total of $50.5 million.

More patients are expected to file claims with the VCF before the October deadline. All applications must be submitted within two years of learning of 9/11-related health issues. The final deadline for applications is October 3, 2016.

Meanwhile, the IRS has reportedly failed to advertise a tax break outlined in the 2002 Victims of Terrorism Tax Relief law, which says that disability income given as a result of a terrorist attack is not taxable. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s office learned earlier this year that the agency was not publicizing the tax break and hotline operators had not been trained to offer it.

Though the agency had not updated its guidance after Gillibrand inquired, IRS head John Koskinen is said to have pledged “immediate action.” The benefit entitles responders and families of the victims to claim a $10,000 refund or three years worth of taxes, whichever is higher.