Experts disagree about which cancers were caused by 911 dust

According to an article last week in the Huffington Post, the federal government declared this month that 50 kinds of cancer could be caused by exposure to World Trade Center toxins. Hundreds of people may get payouts from a World Trade Center fund for those who were sickened after they breathed in toxic dust containing asbestos fibers and other cancer causing materials when the twin towers collaped on Sept. 11, 2001.

According to the article, some scientists say there is little research to prove that exposure to the 911 toxic dust caused even one kind of cancer. Some experts say the payouts to cancer patients could take money away from those suffering from illnesses more closely linked to Sept. 11 dust containing asbestos and other toxins, like respiratory diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis and asthma.

When the twin towers collapsed, much of lower Manhattan was enveloped in a dense cloud of dust which contained asbestos. Some people are still experiencing various respiratory issues.

The government established the 911 Victim Compensation Fund, which paid out about $7 billion including some money for rescuers with asbestos related lung problems such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.

Congress set up two programs for individuals exposed to the dust at the World Trade Center site: rescue and cleanup workers and others who worked or lived in the area. Cancer was initially excluded, but Congress ordered periodic reviews.

One $1.55 billion program is for treatment for any illness determined to be related to the World Trade Center site and cleanup. The second $2.78 billion fund is to compensate individuals who suffered economic losses or a diminished quality of life. The programs may expire in 2016, barring any extention.

As stated in the article, new illnesses added to the list could mean less money for the group as a whole, especially when dealing with major diseases like cancer, acknowledged Sheila Birnbaum, the special master handling applications to the compensation fund.

People with the worst health problems would get the sizable amounts, with cancer payments likely among the largest. Applicants could qualify for payments as long as they and their doctors make a reasonable case that their disease was connected to the dust.

Asbestos, lead, mercury, PCBs and dioxins were all found at the smoldering World Trade Center site for months after the terror attacks. Dioxins have been associated with promoting the growth of some pre-existing cancerous cells. Exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.