Debilitating health conditions plague many Ground Zero workers

Many Ground Zero workers now suffer from respiratory diseases, repetitive trauma injuries or emotional disorders due to working conditions at Ground Zero.

In the aftermath of 9/11, many first responders and workers labored tirelessly at Ground Zero with little concern for their own health or safety. Tragically, many of these heroes now face serious and even disabling mental and physical health complications. Even more Ground Zero workers may also be at risk for chronic illnesses that have not yet manifested.

Life-changing conditions

Many Ground Zero workers have developed serious health problems as a result of exposure to various harmful substances, including asbestos and lead. According to CBS News, recent research suggests that this toxic exposure could put workers at greater risk for autoimmune diseases. Additionally, many workers have already developed serious respiratory illnesses, including:

  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Asthma
  • Certain lung cancers

Tragically, in 2014, The New York Post reported that over 2,500 Ground Zero workers had developed cancer.

As CBS News reports, many other Ground Zero workers may live with conditions that aren't life threatening but still prove incredibly debilitating. Some workers may struggle with mental disorders, including anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder or depression. Others may have sustained repetitive trauma injuries while performing repeated motions during cleanup.

Often, these injuries, illnesses or mental health conditions prevent a person from working or severely limit the person's ability to work. These conditions may also introduce significant medical costs. Fortunately, some injured Ground Zero workers may be able to collect workers' compensation benefits to address medical expenses and ongoing disablement.

Claiming occupational diseases

Many of these injuries and illnesses are considered occupational diseases under New York workers' compensation law. By definition, an occupational disease is one that develops due to unique hazards that a worker faces. A worker may receive compensation for one of these diseases even if the worker didn't miss any work due to the disease.

Workers are given extended filing deadlines for claims involving occupational diseases, since these conditions often manifest slowly. Workers must make claims within two years of the date that the disease became disabling. Alternately, workers must make claims within two years of the date that they discovered the work-related origins of the disease.

If a claim is approved, an injured worker may be able to collect various forms of compensation. Medical benefits can help address various medical expenses, including emergency care, diagnostic testing and rehabilitative treatment. Workers who cannot work at full capacity or at all may also qualify for benefits based on their prior average wages.

Assistance with claims

Unfortunately, establishing the origins of many occupational diseases can be challenging. This may especially be true for workers who have suffered repetitive trauma injuries, mental disorders or respiratory illnesses that are fairly common among the general public.

To improve the likelihood of a favorable claim decision, Ground Zero workers may benefit from partnering with a workers' compensation attorney. An attorney may be able to assist a worker in preparing a properly documented claim that adequately portrays the injury or illness, along with its origins.