A federal health official’s ruling has cleared the way for 50 different types of cancer to be added to the list of sicknesses covered by a $4.3 billion fund set up to compensate and treat people exposed to the toxic smoke, dust and fumes in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
DOCUMENT: Health Conditions Related to World Trade Center Attacks[/*][/list]
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Readers’ CommentsShare your thoughts.Post a Comment »[/*]Read All Comments (13) »[/*][/list]The decision, released on Friday, came as a vindication for hundreds and perhaps thousands of people who have claimed — often in the face of resistance from public health officials — that their cancers were caused by their exposure to the dust cloud and debris thrown up by the attacks.
It will allow not only rescue workers but also volunteers, residents, schoolchildren and passers-by to apply for compensation and treatment for cancers developed in the aftermath of the attacks. The cancers will not be officially added to the list of covered illnesses until after a period of public comment and review that could last several months.
The decision, by Dr. John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, comes despite a current absence of evidence linking the attack to cancer, causing some skepticism among epidemiologists. It also reduces the amount of money for people suffering from ailments more conclusively linked to the Sept. 11 attacks, namely lung and other respiratory sicknesses.
And it poses a number of logistical challenges, since it will be difficult if not impossible to separate people who developed cancer as a result of ground zero from those who would have gotten the disease anyway, and because many cancer diagnoses are likely to be made years after the deadline for applying for compensation passes in 2016.
Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York and a primary sponsor of the 2010 law that set up the fund, said that she recognized those concerns but that the decision was the correct one. “I think it’s an important statement that the country’s going to take care of the workers and people who are there to save the lives of the people of the city,” she said.
One cancer patient who typifies the fraught nature of the decision, Ernest K. Matthews, 62, said he developed lung cancer in 2008 and had part of his right lung cut out. He was part of a crew that cleaned elevators for the Merrill Lynch building next to ground zero after the terrorist attack. He was also a smoker.
But he said he had been able to walk up six flights of stairs carrying a heavy tool bag without catching his breath before Sept. 11. He developed breathing problems soon after, he said.
“It’s a good day,” Mr. Matthews said Friday. “Look at all the people that suffered and lost their lives, sacrificing for the cleanup. It took so long for them to decide to help the people that were suffering.”
Dr. Howard’s decision represented an about-face from assurances by the federal government immediately after the terrorist attacks that there was nothing in the air to be worried about. In July 2011, Dr. Howard himself said there was not enough scientific or medical evidence to link cancer to Sept. 11.
But in a lengthy report explaining his decision, Dr. Howard said that a New York Fire Department study published last fall in the British medical journal The Lancet, which showed that firefighters exposed to ground zero toxic substances had about 20 percent higher rate of cancer than firefighters who were not exposed, had provided a strong foundation for a conclusion that some cancers had been caused by exposure to the World Trade Center debris.
Beyond the Lancet study, he said, he had relied on recommendations made in late March by a scientific and technical advisory committee consisting of experts from the fields of cancer, environmental medicine, toxicology and epidemiology as well as neighborhood activists and union officials. He fully adopted the committee’s recommendation that 14 broad categories of cancer, encompassing 50 specific types, should be deemed as related to the attacks.
1 [/*]2 [/*][/list]NEXT PAGE »Susan C. Beachy contributed research. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/09/nyregion/ruling-to-allow-9-11-health-fund-to-cover-cancers.html?emc=na
By: Jennifer Hue
In: Other News
Tags: WTC, Ruling allows $4.3 billion to cover 50 types of cancer, NYC, Ground Zero, Zadroga Act
Location: New York, New York, United States (load item map)
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