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9/11 responders show unusually high rates of cancer

Firefighters who answered the call at Ground Zero on September 11, 2001, are suffering from certain types of cancer at levels far beyond those found in the general population, UK newspaper The Daily Mail reports.

Survivors of the attack and first responders have been diagnosed with increased rates of leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as well as esophageal, prostate and thyroid cancer, according to sources that have seen the federally funded longitudinal study that the New York Fire Department has undertaken for the last seven years. In addition, the study will reportedly show World Trade Center workers of all ages have increased rates of the blood cancer multiple myeloma, with is usually found only among the elderly. The study is set to be released to the general public soon.

Bolstering the findings of the study is the fact that more than 600 of the 10,000 people involved in a lawsuit against the city of New York seeking compensation for damages resulting from 9/11 have been diagnosed with cancer. Since June 2010, 345 Ground Zero workers have died of cancer.

It’s as yet unclear exactly why Ground Zero exposure has caused such heightened levels of cancer, though previous reports on health problems among Ground Zero workers have cited exposure to smoke and alkaline dust as triggers for a wide variety of complaints.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, an alternative and potentially offensive hypothesis has crept up among the margins of the Internet.

Conspiracy theorists who maintain that the 9/11 attacks were planned and executed by the U.S. government to provide a pretext for war in the Middle East have seized upon the news as evidence that the destruction at the World Trade Center was, in fact, from a nuclear detonation. This theory ignores the fact that there are plenty of carcinogens that can result from widespread destruction, even without the aid of nuclear weapons, as evidenced by the little-reported massive surge in cancer rates in Fallujah, Iraq, following the U.S. invasion of the city.

The news that 9/11 responders are suffering from cancer at inordinate rates may create some political fallout for Senate and House Republicans, who blocked passage last year of a bill that would have provided a total of $7.4 billion to compensate 9/11 victims and their families and to monitor and treat health problems stemming from Ground Zero. Democratic advocates for the measure, like Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), spoke out strongly at the time against the death of the bill.

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