NEW YORK - Salvatore Parisi was one of the many firefighters who rushed to the World Trade Center on September 11th. He's also one of the many first responders who have gotten sick in the aftermath of the attacks. In 2018, Parisi was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia.

"Oh, it just knocks you down. I mean, you'd never think," Parisi said.

Now a new study links leukemia to people who were exposed to 9/11 toxins. It concludes that people who were around the World Trade Center following the attacks have a 41 percent higher risk of developing the blood cancer compared to the general population. 

Lead author Moshe Shapiro of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai says although many researchers suspected a correlation, finding evidence for it is significant.

"That spurs other doctors to look more in depth in trying to understand the relationship between exposure and that particular cancer," Shapiro said.

The study was based on tracking about 29,000 people who are enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program which provides medical monitoring and treatment to people who lived, worked or studied near the collapsed Twin Towers.

The Victim Compensation Fund already provides benefits to people with leukemia but attorney Michael Barasch says any sort of research is helpful. He represents hundreds of 9/11 first responders — 267 of them have leukemia. 

"It's going to help get the word out that people don't realize their cancer, their loved ones death, was a result of this toxic exposure," Barasch said.

“It's a tough road you know but you gotta fight it and keep going," Parisi said.

Parisi says while battling his illness has been a challenge, the research makes him hopeful that first responders like himself and others exposed to the toxic debris will recognize their risk of contracting leukemia and seek treatment when the earliest symptoms develop.