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Seven years have passed since the attack on the World Trade Center. The women and men who worked at Ground Zero now suffer from serious illnesses with no end in sight.

Doctors, politicians and first responders from New Jersey, came together in a recent gathering to call upon the government to continue funding efforts to treat and study the long-term health affects suffered by those who worked among the rubble following the collapse of the twin towers.

A New Jersey clinic intended to treat 200 people, now cares for more than 1,300. Many of them are firefighters, police officers and construction works. They are being treated for a host of different health conditions ranging from asthma to pulmonary fibrosis, sinusitis and sleep apnea and rare cancers.

Following the attack, nearly 90,000 liters of jet fuel created a cloud of black smoke that contained toxic compounds such as metals and benzene. Microscopic glass, asbestos and lead were also found, according to congressional testimony.

A bill pending in Congress to continue funding for these centers is named for James Zadroga, a New York City police detective who was at Ground Zero. Zadroga’s father, a former police chief of North Arlington, told the story yesterday of his son’s heroism at the World Trade Center and his eventual illness and death in January of 2006.

The legislation would provide long-term funding to allow the centers to continue evaluating emerging methods of treatment, said U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.

He did not have an estimate on what the bill would cost, but last year, the effort to monitor and treat WTC responders was $108 million, a Pallone staff member said. According to congressional testimony, more than 51,000 responders from across the country have enrolled in the WTC health program, out of about 91,000 people involved in rescue, recovery and clean-up.

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