New York - The 70 000 surviving firefighters, police officers and other first responders who raced to the World Trade Center after the attacks of September 11, 2001, will be entitled to free monitoring and treatment for 50 forms of cancer.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health announced on Monday that responders as well as survivors who were exposed to toxic compounds from the wreckage, which smouldered for three months, will be covered for cancer under the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act signed into law by President Barack Obama on January 2, 2011.

The decision “marks an important step in the effort to provide needed treatment and care to 9/11 responders and survivors”, said Dr John Howard, administrator of the World Trade Center Health Programme established by the Zadroga law.

Illnesses related to the September 11 attacks have caused an estimated 1 000 deaths.

Last week, the New York City Fire Department etched nine more names to a memorial wall honouring firefighters who died from illnesses after their work at Ground Zero, bringing the total to 64. - Reuters