Firefighters Pushing for Cancer Coverage of Ground Zero Responders Left Off Zadroga Bill Panel

NY Daily News - September 27, 2011

by Alison Gendar DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU

WASHINGTON - City firefighters are furious no FDNY rep is on a new advisory panel to help decide if cancer should be added to diseases covered by the 9/11 Zadroga health law.

The 15-member panel of doctors and advocates will send its recommendations to Dr. John Howard, head of the World Trade Center Health Program.

Although a study that tracked sick and dying firefighters is one of the key medical reports the panel will consider, the U.S. Department Health and Human Services did not pick anyone from the FDNY for the panel.

"Firefighters were at Ground Zero in record numbers for extended periods of time. I don't know why as a group they were left out," said Steve Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association.

John Feal, a Ground Zero construction supervisor and 9/11 victims' advocate, said he's worried that the decision to exclude firefighters will effectively keep "the most vocal on this issue off the panel."

New medical studies found higher cancer rates among firefighters and other workers exposed to Ground Zero toxins than among the general public.

Howard has until early November to decide whether to add certain cancers to the list, allowing victims to get treatment and apply for compensation.

"We will be fighting to get someone from the Fire Department on the panel," said Capt. Al Hagan, head of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association.

Fred Blosser, a spokesman for the federal National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, said the FDNY could fill vacancies as they open up.

"Not being on the committee ... does not reduce one's voice in the process," Blosser said.

Cancer was not on the list of covered diseases because GOP leaders said adding it would balloon the $4.3 billion price tag, sources said.