More than 2,500 Ground Zero rescuers and responders have come down with cancer, and a growing number are seeking compensation for their illnesses, The Post has learned.
The grim toll has skyrocketed from the 1,140 cancer cases reported last year.
In its latest tally, the World Trade Center Health Program at Mount Sinai Hospital counts 1,655 responders with cancer among the 37,000 cops, hard hats, sanitation workers, other city employees and volunteers it monitors, officials told The Post.
The tragic sum rises to 2,518 when firefighters and EMTs are added. The FDNY, which has its own WTC health program, said Friday it counts 863 members with cancers certified for 9/11-related treatment.
A retired FDNY captain, 63, who toiled non-stop at Ground Zero for a week after 9/11, and months in all, recently received a $1.5 million award from the federal 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund for lung disease and inoperable pancreatic cancer.
The emaciated Bravest brought VCF Special Master Sheila Birnbaum to tears when he testified at a hearing in May — expedited because of his dim prognosis — telling how he loves his grandchildren and worries about his wife of 40 years.
“I’m hoping they rush more cases like mine, where we’re not expected to last long,” he told The Post.
On 9/11, he commandeered a city bus and got the Brooklyn Bridge closed so he and his crew from Ladder Co. 132 could race to the towers, where they joined the dig for victims.
“I knew that day that a lot of us would get sick,” he said.
He was forced to retire in 2008 after lung damage left him wheezing after fires. Last year, doctors found a huge tumor entwined around arteries: “They couldn’t take it out without killing me,” he said.
The 6-foot-2 firefighter — a muscle-bound 240 pounds on 9/11 — now weighs 160 after chemotherapy and radiation.
“I was a very active guy. Now there’s not much I can do,” he said, adding that his three toddler grandkids give him joy, though he’s often too weak to play with them.
“I’m grateful for it,” he said of his VCF award, which is mainly based on lost earnings but includes $250,000 for pain and suffering. “I just don’t understand why they’re making everyone wait two years.”
VCF recipients get 10 percent immediately, with the rest due in 2016.
As of June 30, the VCF had received 1,145 claims listing cancer, many also with other ailments, according to data compiled for The Post.
Of those, 881 claims — for scores of cancer types — were deemed eligible for compensation, with the rest under review. The vast majority are 9/11 workers, but they include 17 downtown residents and five visitors.
So far, 115 cancer claimants have been awarded a total $50.5 million, in sums from $400,000 to $4.1 million. The VCF could not say how many cancer claimants have died.
Many more sufferers or their next-of-kin are expected to file by the Oct. 14 deadline for cancer claims.
WTC epidemiologists say studies show that 9/11 workers have gotten certain cancers at a significantly higher rate than expected in the normal population — prostrate, thyroid, leukemia and multiple myeloma.