SI Advance - September 11, 2012by Kiawana Rich
The collective feeling on Staten Island: "It's about time."
The federal government has added about 50 types of cancer to the list of Sept. 11 World Trade Center-related illnesses that will be covered by a program to pay for health coverage.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety announced the change Monday, the eve of the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
The institute said last June that it favored expanding the existing $4.3 billion Sept. 11 health program to include people with 50 types of cancer. That move followed years of lobbying by construction workers, firefighters, police officers, office cleaners and others who fell ill in the decade after the terror attack, which destroyed the 110-story Twin Towers, spewing toxic dust.
NIOSH acted after an advisory committee made up of doctors, union officials and community advocates recommended that cancer be added.
The World Trade Center Health Program was created as a result of the passage of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The Zadroga Act, passed by Congress in December 2010, is designed to provide medical services and compensation for responders who were exposed to toxins while working at Ground Zero.
The ruling is welcome news for Staten Islanders like Joanne Navarra of West Brighton.
Mrs. Navarra lost her husband Vic Navarra, 55, who died Dec. 30, 2007, after a courageous battle with a rare form of head and neck cancer. A then-retired FDNY lieutenant in 2001, Navarra rushed to help out at Ground Zero after the attacks.
Scientists say there's little research to prove exposure to toxic dust from the destroyed Twin Towers caused even one kind of cancer. Questions about whether dust caused cancer were a reason Congress didn't include it in the initial list of covered illnesses.
But for Mrs. Navarra, 58, and some Islanders like her, there's a concern that while Monday's decision will help the families of the living, it won't do much for those who've already lost loved ones in connection with 9/11.
Lawrence Sullivan of Grant City, died Aug. 20. A veteran firefighter at Rescue Co. 5, Sullivan, lost an 18-month battle with a rare intestinal cancer and was one of 64 members of the FDNY to die of a disease linked to work at Ground Zero, according to the FDNY.
In addition, Michael Morales, 62, of Westerleigh, a decorated Vietnam veteran and retired NYPD detective, died of cancer on June 10, 2009, and John P. (Jack) Meade, 67, of Westerleigh, the former chairman of the Staten Ireland Irish Fair died on Jan. 11, 2010; both worked at Ground Zero in the aftermath of 9/11.
--- Associated Press material was used in this report.