This may fall under the category of “Tell me something I didn’t already know”, but a British study has shown that firefighters exposed to dust and debris at Ground Zero are at an increased risk of developing cancer. The reason this is big news, is that all of the studies before this did not show an increased risk. The study, “Early assessment of cancer outcomes in New York City firefighters after the 9/11 attacks: an observational cohort study”, was published in the British journal, The Lancet.   

While many studies point out that 10 years is not long enough to see a statistical difference in cancer rates, as many cancers have a longer manifestation period, this is the first step in recognizing the possibility that these heroes put themselves at an increased risk to save others.  This was headline news in the New York Times, in which the September 1, 2011 article, “Study Suggests Higher Cancer Risk for 9/11 Firefighters” stated: “A new study says firefighters who toiled in the wreckage of the World Trade Center in 2001 were 19% more likely to develop cancer than those that were not there, the strongest evidence to date of a possible link between work at ground zero and cancer.”

Exposure to dust, debris and toxins is not limited to the World Trade Center site; firefighters and first responders know firsthand of these risks. The problem is that other incidents and exposures are not as well documented as those of 9/11. This is why it is extremely important to keep a journal of any significant fires, chemical spills, explosions or other incidents in which you may have been exposed to harmful substances.    

If you develop cancer as a result of something you were exposed to at work, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. To prove this, you’ll need to be able to show that you were exposed to harmful substances and that the exposure contributed to your cancer. This is why it’s very important to keep your own exposure journal, as employers will definitely not do this for you. If you, or someone you know, is suffering from cancer as a result of work-related exposures, please contact me to set up a free consultation here in my firm’s Lawrenceville, New Jersey office in order to discuss your case in more detail.