Zadroga Bill's Passage a Starting Point, Advocates Say

NY 1 - September 09, 2011

by Bobby Cuza

Earlier this year, a bill designed to help provide for the medical needs of 9/11 recovery workers was finally signed into law, but already there are concerns the bill does not go far enough. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.

It was hailed as a major victory for 9/11 recovery workers. Passage of the Zadroga Act, providing treatment to those sickened by World Trade Center toxins, and reopening the victim compensation fund, allowing up to $2.8 billion in payments to victims.

New York attorney Sheila Birnbaum was appointed special master.

"We want to put as much money from this fund into the hands of the people who were actually hurt at the world trade center as we can," Birnbaum said.

But how to define "hurt" at the World Trade Center remains a topic of debate. Last week, the fund's coverage area was expanded to include those who worked or lived as far north as Canal Street. But the bill doesn't cover those with post-traumatic stress or those with cancer.

"Cancer's the quintessential disease. Cancer's the one that's killing everybody," said FealGood Foundation Founder John Feal.

Feal says it's no coincidence that of 54 recovery workers' funerals he's attended, 52 were cancer related. The federal government says a conclusive link has not yet been established, but critics say the evidence is undeniable.

An FDNY study released just last week found increased cancers among the firefighters who participated in the recovery effort at the World Trade Center, as compared to those who didn't, with obvious implications for the tens of thousands of non-firefighters who also served here.

On Wednesday, supporters filed a formal petition to have cancer added to the list of covered ailments.

"We've seen these cancers. We've got the first peer-reviewed studies. It's time no longer to wait," said Congressman Jerrold Nadler.

"On September 11th, we rescued you. Now it's your turn to rescue us," said New York City Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch.

By law, the 9/11 health fund administrator must respond within 60 days. As for the victim compensation fund, it will be up and running October 3.