By next month, the advisory panel tasked by Congress with reviewing changing scientific and medical evidence and making recommendations about which illnesses should be covered under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act’s $2.8 billion Victim Compensation Fund could recommend that some cancers be included as covered illnesses. Cancer is currently excluded from Zadroga Act coverage because of supposedly insufficient scientific proof that exposure to the toxic dust at Ground Zero following the 9/11 terrorism attacks is associated with an increased risk of developing the disease.
According to a report published recently by the Huffington Post, the World Trade Center Health Program’s Scientific/Technical Advisory Committee heard testimony in New York last month regarding the cancer question. Some of the testimony may have swayed the advisors’ opinion.
“It seems like many [members] are in favor of listing at least some cancers of some systems as World Trade Center-related conditions,” said Dr. Elizabeth Ward, chairwoman of the World Trade Center Health Program’s Scientific/Technical Advisory Committee, according to the Huffington Post.
According to the report, evidence linking Ground Zero toxic dust exposure to appears to be mounting. For example, Dr. Philip Landrigan, a dean at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, testified at last months hearing that a yet-to-be published study conducted by his team that 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 Huffington Post said.
“I think that we’ve reached a point… [where] we can say with a high degree of certainty that the exposures that the responders experienced down there at Ground Zero and the other World Trade Center sites, we can reasonably anticipate that those exposures are going to cause cancer,” Landrigan said.
An earlier study released in September found that firefighters working at the site were 19 percent more likely to develop cancer than those who weren’t there, according to the Huffington Post.
First responders, who rallied at City Hall in advance of the hearing, urged panel members to cover their conditions.
“There are cancers, unequivocally, undoubtedly, that need to be added to this bill yesterday,” John Feal, founder of the FealGood Foundation, an advocacy group for 9/11 recovery workers.
The advisory panel could make a recommendation by next month about which types of cancer, if any, ought to be covered, the Huffington Post said.