Cancer stricken Ground Zero first responders will have to wait at least several more days before they learn whether or not they will be entitled to compensation under the federal Zadroga Act. According to a report from the New York Times, Dr. John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), was supposed to make a decision on Zadroga Act cancer coverage by last Saturday. But the decision has been put off because of a bureaucratic delay.
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. Cancer was not originally listed as a covered ailment under the Zadroga Act, but in March the World Trade Center Health Program Scientific/Technical Advisory Committee recommended that cancers of the respiratory and digestive system, along with thyroid cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, eye cancer, oral cavity cancer, urinary tract cancer, mesothelioma, melanoma, leukemia, lymphoma, soft tissue sarcomas and all childhood and rare cancers, be deemed covered illnesses.
According to The New York Times, Christina M. Spring, a spokesperson for NIOSH, said Howard’s decision on what, if any cancers, should be covered by the Zadroga Act would be announced either later this week or next week. The delay has arisen because of the need for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct agency reviews before the final decision can be released.
Since the Zadroga Act was passed, at least two studies have found that people exposed to Ground Zero dust are more likely to develop Cancer. Last summer, a Lancet 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, reported that study conducted by his team revealed a 14 percent increase in cancer rates among Ground Zero rescue workers, including significant increases in prostate, thyroid and certain blood cancers. The study involved 20,000 firefighters and police officers as well as sanitation workers, construction workers and others who assisted at Ground Zero after the terror attack, making it the largest of its kind.
As we’ve reported previously, federal officials believe 35,000 people could ultimately sign up for Zadroga Act compensation, even without cancer’s inclusion. Advocates for patients and government officials do conceded that adding cancer to the list of covered illnesses could strain the fund’s resources.