Firefighters and other 9/11 responders, and those who worked among the debris of the World Trade Center site have been faced with a host of health-related problems. On Monday, the federal government acknowledged that cancer is certainly among the conditions, adding 58 types of cancer to the list covered by the Zadroga Act. Signed into law by President Obama in 2011, the Zadroga Act ensures that those affected by 9/11 continue to receive monitoring and treatment services for 9/11-related health problems through at least 2015.
Often compared to coal miners, workers laboring in dust for months at the World Trade Center site were exposed to a never-before seen toxic mix of jet fuel residue, chemicals and building materials. Many developed cancer-related health problems, and some have died.
So, why did it take 11 years to make it official?
It takes time to gather research data, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) wanted evidence of a causal relationship between the 9/11 disaster and cancer found in survivors before agreeing to fund between $14.5 million and $33 million for an estimated 950 to 2,150 claims.
“We have urged from the very beginning that the decision whether or not to include cancer be based on science,” said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The catalyst for coverage? Science.
Insufficient scientific evidence of a causal relationship was the reason for omitting cancer from the docket of covered illnesses – until research funded by NIOSH found that responder firefighters were almost 10 percent more likely to develop cancer in the seven years post-9/11 than the general U.S. population with similar demographics and 19 percent more likely than their non-exposed counterparts. (more…)