Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is now covered as an independent injury under the Zadroga Act. For 9/11 responders and survivors, it means that they can file a claim for COPD without having a prior diagnosis or association with another respiratory injury. COPD alone is now eligible for coverage. Previously, COPD was only eligible if it was exacerbated by the attacks.
COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. Patients with COPD have trouble breathing, and cough up large amounts of mucus. Other symptoms include wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. COPD is a progressive disease, meaning the condition gets worse over time.
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 WTC Health Program provides medical treatment and monitoring to 9/11 responders and survivors. It is funded through the Zadroga Act, which was initially signed into law in January 2011 and reauthorized at the end of 2015. The Zadroga Act also funds the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.
Residents and responders were exposed to toxic dust when the towers fell. The debris released many hazardous substances, including asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls, benzene, dioxin, glass fibers, gypsum, cement particles and heavy metals such as lead. The Pile, which contained the remains of the building, smoldered until mid-December. The Environmental Protection Agency said after the attacks that the air was safe to breathe, a statement that turned out to be incorrect.
Many different health problems are now linked to 9/11, including respiratory conditions and over 60 different types of cancer. More than 37,000 people are affected by at least one 9/11-related condition, the WTC Health Program says.