The dusty, toxic air that swirled around the smoldering World Trade Center site raised the risk of cancer for those exposed, a new study has found.
"This is the report we've been waiting for," Kenny Specht said Thursday. "This is what we were told didn't exist."
Specht was a firefighter on Sept. 11, and spent seven weeks looking for his fallen colleagues at ground zero.
Six years later, he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
"I absolutely believe my thyroid cancer was caused by my time at the trade center," he said.
Specht is not alone. In a report released Thursday night by the FDNY and published in Lancet, the nearly 9,000 firefighters who were exposed to the trade center were 19 percent more likely to have cancer than firefighters who didn't work down near the pile.
"I was surprised we saw an increase in cancer," said Dr. David Prezant, the chief medical officer for the FDNY. "We cannot take away exposures from 9/11 but I am convinced that we can make an impact on their future lives with cancer prevention and screening strategies."
But the study's authors call the cancer increase "modest." They also found no surge in any particular type of cancer.
Still, the new report seems likely to reignite debate about the Zadroga Act, named for former NYPD officer James Zadroga.
That law pays for 9/11 health benefits, but not in cancer cases because there hadn't been a scientific link.
Now Kenny Specht worries about his friends who aren't yet sick as the 10th anniversary approaches.
"I shudder to think about the next 10 years -- is it really going to be as they've told us it is?" Specht said. "It's bad now, to think that it's going to be worse is inconceivable -- it's an inconceivable thought."