Chief Leader - October 18, 2011by FLORA FAIR
Uniformed Firefighters Association President Steve Cassidy is one of two members of the World Trade Center Scientific/Technical Advisory Committee, which is responsible for reviewing medical research to determine which illnesses should be covered for care by the $1.8-billion WTC Health Program.
Mr. Cassidy had sent a letter to program administrator Dr. John Howard arguing that firefighters were disproportionately affected by Ground Zero-related health problems and needed representation on the panel. Also joining the panel is Kimberly Flynn, co-founder and director of 9/11 Environmental Action.
Voice for Responders
"The addition of these two new representatives will expand the voice of the populations directly served by the World Trade Center Health Program," said Dr. Howard, Director of the National Institute of Safety and Health. "As the committee conducts its work, the survivors' and responders' representatives will provide valuable input and understanding."
Mr. Cassidy had asked to join the committee due to concerns that no one on the panel would voice the specific problems and interests of firefighters, who face a myriad of illnesses attributed to their time at Ground Zero. He assured Dr. Howard in his letter that he was "intimately familiar" with the medical issues firefighters face.
The WTC Health Program officially opened in July as part of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. It provides medical monitoring and treatment for WTC responders and survivors sickened by their toxic exposure at Ground Zero. There is a list of diseases covered by the program, and the panel may be instrumental in getting new ones added to the list.
Cancer is not included among those diseases, though many responders and lawmakers insist the evidence clearly shows a connection between site exposure and cancer. A recent FDNY study found increased cancer rates for firefighters who did rescue and recovery work at the WTC site, and Mr. Cassidy said dozens more firefighters have developed cancer since that study ended in 2008.
The advisory committee, assembled last month by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will assess medical research for emerging illnesses, and though it can't compel NIOSH to add any diseases, its findings will hold weight in the final decision.
Proceedings and recommendations from committee meetings will be available at www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/wtc.