9/11 Exposure and Cancer Risk

Author: Christina Bach, MBE, LCSW, OSW-C
Last Reviewed: August 08, 2022

Exposure to hazardous materials has been linked to increased cancer incidence in first responders, recovery workers, and civilians who lived, went to school, or worked in the NYC disaster area after 9/11. Exactly which cancers are caused by this exposure is not clear, but programs are following many people who may have been exposed to hazardous materials after 9/11 to learn more.

World Trade Center Health Program

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) manages the World Trade Center Health Program. This program maintains a registry of people who were exposed to hazardous materials in the months after the attacks in New York, Washington, DC, and Shanksville, PA. Medical monitoring and treatment are also provided through this program to determine what health issues, including cancer, may arise from their exposure.

Cancers covered in the registry:

  • All cancers diagnosed in people under 20 years of age.
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Leukemia.
  • Multiple myeloma.
  • Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia.
  • Colon.
  • Esophagus.
  • Liver.
  • Rectal.
  • Retroperitoneum/peritoneum.
  • Stomach.
  • Eye/Adnexa.
  • Breast (female).
  • Ovary.
  • Head and Neck.
  • Lung and Bronchus.
  • Heart, mediastinum, pleura.
  • Malignant melanoma of the skin.
  • Non-melanoma skin cancers.
  • Soft tissue.
  • Thyroid.
  • Bladder.
  • Kidney.
  • Prostate.
  • Urethra/ureter.
  • Mesothelioma.
  • Rare Cancers including adrenal, anal, bone, male breast, gallbladder, brain, pancreas, penile (penis), testicular, placenta, small intestine, thymus, invasive vulva, vaginal, cervical, neuroendocrine (including carcinoid), myelodysplastic/myeloproliferative disorders.

Who is eligible for services from the World Trade Center Health Program?

  • Fire Department of New York: any member of FDNY who participated in at least one day of the rescue/recovery effort at the World Trade Center, Staten Island Landfill, and/or the NYC Chief Medical Examiner’s office.
  • NYC Responder:
    • Any individual who worked or volunteered in rescue and recovery in lower Manhattan (south of Canal Street), Ground Zero, Staten Island Landfill, or the barge loading piers.
    • Police/Port Authority of NY/NJ members who worked or volunteered in rescue and recovery in lower Manhattan (south of Canal Street), Ground Zero, Staten Island Landfill, or the barge loading piers.
    • Employees of the Medical Examiner’s office in NYC who were involved in the examination and/or handling of human remains from the WTC attack.
    • Workers in the Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation Tunnel.
    • A vehicle-maintenance worker who may have been exposed to hazardous debris while retrieving, driving, cleaning, repairing, and/or maintaining vehicles contaminated after the attack.
    • NYC Survivor
      • A person who was present in the disaster area on September 11, 2001.
      • A person who worked lived, attended school, child care, or adult day care for at least 4 days from 9/11/2001-1/10/2002 OR 30 days from 9/11/2001-7/3/2002.
      • Any individual who worked as a cleanup worker or performed maintenance work in the disaster area from 9/11/2001-1/10/2002.
      • Persons who lived and worked in the disaster area between 9/11/2001 and 5/31/2003 as a result of redevelopment grants for residential and corporate re-development efforts.
      • Any person whose place of employment was located in the disaster area from 9/11/2001-May 31, 2003.
      • Pentagon/Shanksville, PA Responders who were part of the rescue, recovery, demolition, clean-up, and other related services.
        • Fire and police department employees.
        • Recovery or clean-up workers/contractors.
        • Volunteers, including those from the Red Cross.

Financial Assistance

In addition to the World Trade Center Health Program, people exposed may be eligible for additional financial assistance through the September 11thVictim Compensation Fund (VCF) and/or the New York State Worker’s Compensation Law.*

Be advised that there are strict guidelines about who can receive compensation through the Victims Compensation Fund, as well as when claims can be filed. Call the VCF Helpline at 855-885-1555 for more assistance with your specific case. In July 2019, Congress fully funded the VCF to pay all eligible claims and extended the claim filing deadline to October 1, 2090.

*all claims to New York State Workers’ Compensation Law must be made by September 11, 2022.


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