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Have we forgotten about the 9/11 workers exposed to asbestos?

The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2011 have been widely regarded as one of the worst events in American history. But it was also a day that saw many heroic efforts by emergency responders and volunteers who rushed in to save lives and protect others. The importance of their aid could never be overstated. However, some workers now fear that their assistance has put their own lives in danger and some do not feel as though they will get the same type of help.

Many of the workers who responded to the attacks and those who contributed to the clean-up effort in the following weeks and months were exposed to toxic levels of asbestos. Now, more than 10 years after their service, many are starting to exhibit symptoms of asbestos-related illnesses. And one of the very serious concerns that people who have been exposed to asbestos typically have is how they will pay for the cost of their medical care. 

Workers at Ground Zero were exposed to very high levels of asbestos long after the attacks. Buildings were destroyed and cleaning up the debris often released high amounts of asbestos into the air. The area was covered in dust. Despite knowing the dangers of asbestos exposure, some employers and authorities relaxed efforts to keep workers safe from breathing in the minerals in the interest of time and money.

Due to the grave situation, people continued working despite the dangers they faced. However, now, many of them are worried about their health, especially as federal health benefits to workers could run out in 2016. Many workers may not have even been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness yet, as it can take decades for these diseases to be diagnosed.

People who have been exposed to asbestos and get sick generally have very serious concerns about how they will pay for the medical care they will ultimately need. Tests, surgeries and medication can be very expensive, and many victims have already retired from work and do not have the funds to cover these costs. Insurance may cover some, but ultimately, victims may want to consider seeking out other options for covering their medical expenses. In some cases, people work with an attorney to pursue compensation from parties that contributed to the asbestos exposure which resulted in an illness. 

Source: Newsday, "9/11 asbestos crews share fear of health coverage running out," Joan Gralla, Nov. 30, 2013

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