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Cancer-Stricken World Trade Center First Responders Denied Zadroga Act Benefits

Jul 27, 2011 | Parker Waichman LLP

August 2, 2011: reports the latest anger on Long Island over the Zadroga decision to not compensate cancer-stricken 9/11 first responders stating that scientific evidence is insufficient to support the connection between Ground Zero workers and the disease.

Some sick Ground Zero workers are being left out again.  This time they are being excluded from benefits under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act because they have cancer, after a federal agency determined that there is not enough scientific evidence to prove a link between toxic dust at Ground Zero and cancer.

Many of these cancer-stricken Ground Zero workers were also left out of the World Trade Center Toxic Dust Settlement that was approved last year.  About 325 first responders were deemed not eligible for that settlement because they missed the deadline to file a lawsuit in the litigation - in some cases by just days.  The early April 2010 deadline was not announced until June of that year, exempting some who were impacted by rescue and recovery activities and who had filed cases as negotiations for the cut-off were ongoing.

Advocates for these workers, including Parker Waichman LLP, which represents 13 first responders in this position, had believed the Zadroga Act would provide them much needed health care.  But while it will cover asthma, interstitial lung disease and mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder, cancer is being excluded for now.  Yesterday, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) announced that WTC Administrator John Howard, M.D., had determined that cancers will not yet be considered covered conditions under the Zadroga Act.   

“These limitations in the exposure assessment literature make scientific analysis of a causal association between exposure and health effects, such as cancer, quite challenging,” the report said.

NIOSH will revisit the decision next year, when it conducts its next review.  But for then, Ground Zero cancer victims who lack health insurance, and/or are not eligible for the World Trade Center Toxic Dust Settlement will have to go without. 

“This is not just about compensation, this is also about healthcare,” Matthew McCauley, an attorney with Parker Waichman LLP said. “All of the people who are now barred from obtaining any compensation from the settlement are also barred from getting healthcare from Zadroga. It’s a triple whammy. Not only can’t you work, but now you have developed cancer and you have no access to healthcare to treat that cancer.”

McCauley also found it ironic that the NIOSH report cited a lack off scientific evidence. 

"The decision essentially said there is not enough scientific data to analyze these cases and this is due to the Bush administration's refusal to fund these studies,” McCauley said. "The Obama administration reversed this and I'm cautiously optimistic that in time, when additional studies can be conducted, that we can overturn this decision."

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