An update has been made to the list of illnesses eligible for coverage under the Zadroga Act. 9/11 victims can now file a claim if they have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as an independent injury. This means that they do not need to have a prior diagnosis or another respiratory condition in order to file a claim. COPD alone is now a covered illness. In the past, victims with COPD could only file a claim if their pre-September 11th COPD was exacerbated by the attacks.
Patients suffering from COPD have difficulty breathing. According to the National Institutes of Health, it is a progressive disease, meaning that it gets worse as time goes on. COPD causes coughing that produces large amounts of mucus, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States, and millions are diagnosed.
Zadroga benefits were also updated with regards to COPD in July. The Health and Human Services Department (HHS) added new-onset COPD and WTC-related acute traumatic injury to the list of WTC-Related Health Conditions eligible for treatment coverage in the WTC Health Program. The new rule added new-onset COPD as a covered injury in addition to the existing, related injuries.
The Zadroga Act funds the WTC Health Program and the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. It was initially signed into law in January 2011 and was reauthorized at the end of last year. Thousands of 9/11 survivors receive medical treatment and monitoring through the WTC Health Program.
A massive amount of toxic dust was released when the towers collapsed. The dust contained asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls, benzene, dioxin, glass fibers, gypsum, cement particles and heavy metals such as lead. The remains of the building, known as the Pile, smoldered until mid-December 2001. Rescue and recovery workers were told by the Environmental Protection Agency that the air was safe to breathe.
Now, exposure to the toxic dust has been linked with a number of different health problems. The Zadroga Act provides coverage for many different conditions linked to 9/11, including over 60 different types of cancer, respiratory conditions and more. The WTC Health Program says more than 37,000 people have at least one 9/11-related condition.