NY Daily News - June 09, 2012by Alison Gendar AND Jonathan Lemire
Cancer added to list of ailments covered by $4.3 billion 9/11 health fund for workers & residentsCancers will now be covered by the 9/11 health law in a landmark ruling that clears the way for thousands of Ground Zero first-responders to receive treatment and compensation.
The decision means rescue workers and city residents who were near Ground Zero and later diagnosed with 50 types of cancers will be covered by the Zadroga Act.
"This is a great day," said Ground Zero activist John Feal, who pushed first for the legislation and then for cancers to be covered.
"We're making sure the people who did something heroic a decade ago will get the medical treatment they deserve," Feal added, "and not have to choose between paying the mortgage and getting chemo treatment."
Dr. John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, accepted a federal panel's recommendation to add 14 broad categories of cancer -- covering 50 specific types -- to the list of ailments covered by the $4.3 billion fund.
The original 2011 act covered certain respiratory illnesses linked to 9/11 exposure -- but left cancers off the list.
Federal officials said the omission was because the scientific evidence didn't show a link -- but first responders argued it was because adding cancer would jack up the cost.
"This decision is a big step forward that backs up what we already know to be true -- our heroes are sick and some are dying from cancer obtained by breathing the toxins at Ground Zero," according to a statement released by Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, two of many New York lawmakers who pushed for an expansion of the legislation.
"This is a great day for the responders and survivors of the toxins at ground zero," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan), another sponsor. "It shows that the law we all worked so long and hard for is working."
In his decision, Howard cited an FDNY report released last September which found that firefighters exposed to Ground Zero toxins had a 19% higher cancer rate than those who did not.
That report said it was "biologically possible" to link cancer to time spent at the World Trade Center site. Among those illnesses covered by the law now include lung, colon, thyroid and blood cancers.
Although the pool of those eligible to receive a settlement and treatment will increase, it will take congressional authorization to add more money to the fund, which is set to expire in 2016.