9/11 Responders Denied Coverage for Cancer Treatment
A federal review of scientific evidence has concluded that 9/11 first responders and residents of ground zero who have developed cancer after the 2001 attacks do not qualify for aid from the federal government program at least until 2012. A review published on Tuesday by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says that there is ”very little” evidence for a link between cancer and the cloud of toxins released when the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers were destroyed.
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act is named for a police officer who died at the age of 34 after working at Ground Zero; the act guarantees that those who suffered health problems related to the 9/11 attacks be “monitored by doctors and receive treatment at least until 2015,” says the Star-Ledger. The $4.2 billion legislation was signed by President Obama in January after what CNN refers to as a “lengthy battle” and so far providers coverage for asthma, interstitial lung disease and mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer, who had initially praised the legislation, says in CNN:
“So many people have gotten such rare cancers — and at such young ages — that it seems obvious there must be a link.”
He labeled the report “premature” and said revision will “demonstrate that those who were exposed to the witches’ brew of toxins at ground zero have developed serious illnesses, including cancer, and deserve justice.”
Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler and Republican Rep. Peter King, who authored the legislation, all expressed disappointment at the finding, as did those who worked at the WTC site and have developed diseases including blood cancer and thyroid cancer. In the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, telecommunications worker Richard Dambakly, who worked for four months at ground zero and has developed blood cancer, called the review “nonsense.” Two police officers interviewed by CNN have both developed cancer: New York police officer Reggie Hillaire is 34 years old; he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma cancer in 2005 and told by doctors that such is “really, really rare” in someone “so young.” He worked for 11 days at the WTC site and then 63 days at a Staten Island landfill and says:
“I’ve met so many people who were police officers at the same time who have these cancers, and we’re all about the same age.”
…Cancer treatment being covered by the program “would have brought some closure. … It feels like it’s never going to end,” he said.
“It’s very unfortunate. My doctors think (the cancer’s) directly linked” to the September 11 exposure, said Al Schille, a New York Police Department detective who also suffers from multiple myeloma cancer.
The report does not completely outrule a link between cancer and exposure to the toxins released in the 9/11 attacks but says that evidence for such is currently “insufficient.” As the Star-Ledger says, the cause of Zadroga’s 2005 death is still being debated:
His supporters say he died from respiratory disease contracted at ground zero. But the city’s medical examiner said his lung condition was caused by prescription drug abuse, not by World Trade Center particles.
Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has called the director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to “accelerate research and data collection to examine the links between cancer and exposure to contaminants at ground zero.” But will new findings emerge in time to help individuals like Dambakly, Hillaire and Schille?
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Photo taken September 19, 2001, by mashleymorgan