Zadroga Act Committee Expected to Recommend Cancer Be Added to List of Covered Illnesses

The advisory panel appointed by the U.S. Congress to make recommendations about which illnesses should be covered under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act’s $2.8 billion Victim Compensation Fund will reportedly recommend that more than 20 different cancers be added to the list of covered illnesses. According to an article from The Huffington Post, a draft of a Committee report posted yesterday on the website of the National Institute of Occupation Safety Health (NIOSH) recommends making victims of esophagus, stomach, colon, liver, skin, lung, kidney and other cancers eligible for Zadroga Act compensation. The report will be discussed at a meeting of the The World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) Scientific/Technical Advisory Committee next week.

The news will come as a relief to many Ground Zero first responders diagnosed with cancer in the wake of the World Trade Center collapse, many of whom are too sick to work and lack health insurance. Since the attacks, thousands of people who responded to the disaster have been stricken with respiratory ailments, cancer and other illnesses. Passed in December 2010, the Zadroga Act reopened the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund for five years to provide payment for job and economic losses for first responders, those trapped in the buildings, and local residents, who suffered illness or injuries related to the toxic dust. However, purportedly due to a lack of scientific evidence linking cancer to the toxic dust exposure, no form of the disease initially included in the list of covered Zadroga Act illnesses.

Since the Zadroga Act’s passage however, evidence linking Ground Zero toxic dust to various cancers has grown. For example, last year, a study of New York City firefighters found a 19% increase in cancer overall in those who responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Most recently, Dr. Philip Landrigan, a dean at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, testified during a Committee hearing last month that a yet-to-be published study conducted by his team revealed a 14 percent increase in cancer rates among rescue workers, including significant increases in prostate, thyroid and certain blood cancers. The study was the largest of its kind, involving 20,000 firefighters and police officers as well as sanitation workers, construction workers and others who assisted at Ground Zero after the terror attack.

The news is being cheered by advocates for Ground Zero workers

“Our heroes are sick and literally dying from cancers obtained by breathing the toxins at Ground Zero,” said Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y), said in a statement. “For too many first responders and community survivors, this program could be the difference between life and death. It is time to provide the care these heroes deserve, and we will not rest until cancer is included on the list of eligible diseases for treatment and compensation by the 9/11 health bill.”

“The materials posted today on the NIOSH website show that we are making real progress in adding coverage for cancers under the Zadroga Act,” said a statement by the act’s first sponsors, Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Peter King (R-N.Y.).

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