© 9/11 Memorial Museum/MEMO
More than ten times the number of NYPD police officers have died in the 18 years since 9/11 as were killed in the terror attack on the World Trade Center itself, officials said.
The grim statistic comes in the wake of a protracted battle for funding to compensate ill first responders and other survivors as well as the families of those who died. President Trump recently signed into law a permanent extension of the funding for the Victim Compensation Fund, which would have run out of money by December 2020.
And while the most common killer has been cancer, new research suggests that cardiovascular disease is markedly higher in responders who were first on the scene as well as those who spent protracted periods of time on the pile. To date, 241 members of the NYPD died of 9/11-related illnesses -- compared to the 23 killed in the attack on the World Trade Center.
"The unfortunate part is that number continues to grow," Deputy Commissioner Robert Ganley told ABC News. "It's heartbreaking. It's very sad. It's sad for the department. It's sad for the families left behind."
The last 18 years have been just as devastating for the fire department.
Twenty-two members of the FDNY have died of 9/11-related illnesses since the last anniversary. On Friday afternoon their names will be added to the FDNY World Trade Center Memorial Wall.
"Dedicated to the memory of those who bravely served this department protecting life and property in the City of New York in the rescue and recovery effort at Manhattan box 5-5-8087 World Trade Center," the wall's inscription reads.
Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro added:
"This solemn wall is a poignant and permanent reminder of the sacrifice of all that responded on September 11th and toiled for weeks and months at the World Trade Center searching for the innocent lives taken that day. Because of their dedication and bravery, each year the already staggering loss suffered by the FDNY continues to grow as illnesses claimed the lives of those who so bravely served our city."
To date, 202 FDNY members have died of illnesses related to their service on Sept. 11 or in the immediate aftermath. In the attack itself, 343 members died.
Meanwhile, for the first time, researchers are linking high exposure to 9/11 World Trade Center dust with the long-term risk of cardiovascular disease.
Firefighters who were first on the scene were 44% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than firefighters who arrived the next day, according to a new study published Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University.
"The increase in risk was significant, even taking into account known CVD risk factors such as age, hypertension, elevated cholesterol, diabetes, and smoking," said study leader David J. Prezant, M.D., a professor of medicine at Einstein and chief medical officer of the FDNY.
The length of time that firefighters worked at the disaster site, either more or less than six months, was also linked to higher rates of cardiovascular disease. Those who worked on the pile for six months or more were 30% more likely to have experienced a heart attack or stroke.
The findings, while not conclusive, show cardiovascular conditions should be added to the list of 9/11 diseases covered under a federal law that provides compensation to first responders, Prezant said.
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