Cancer-stricken emergency workers who responded to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and cancer victims who resided in the area do not qualify for federal aid, according to a review by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. NIOSH concluded that "insufficient evidence exists at this time to propose a rule to add cancer, or a certain type of cancer," to the list of diseases that qualify for aid under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.
Noting that only one peer-review study has looked at the link between the cloud of toxins that spilled out of the collapsed towers and cancer, NIOSH decided that "these limitations in the exposure assessment literature make scientific analysis of a causal association between exposure and health effects, such as cancer, quite challenging."
The result is that 9/11 survivors, first responders, and residents near the towers who have been diagnosed with cancer will not receive any aid until at least late 2012, when the government will release another review. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand yesterday called on NIOSH to accelerate the review process, while Senator Chuck Schumer dismissed the findings as "premature," telling the AP, "So many people have gotten such rare cancers — and at young ages — that it seems obvious there must be a link."
Firefighter Kenneth Specht, who is battling thyroid cancer, tells the Daily News, "Every time we bury a New York City firefighter: Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. How can that not be included? It's absolutely unacceptable." And Jennifer McNamara, whose firefighter husband died two years ago, says, "I had a husband who responded to the Trade Center in his 30s in perfect, perfect health. At the age of 41 he was diagnosed with stage 1 colon cancer. They did the DNA test and he had no genetic predisposition for colon cancer, which leaves environmental factors. What is the one big environmental disaster lurking in my husband's past? 9/11."
U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler, and Peter King, authors of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, released a statement yesterday saying:
As the sponsors of the Zadroga Act, we are disappointed that Health Program Administrator Dr. John Howard has not yet found sufficient evidence to support covering cancers. This is disappointing news for 9/11 responders and survivors who tragically have been diagnosed with cancer since the attacks and are suffering day-to-day and awaiting help. We are confident that studies on the effects of the toxins at ground zero -research that, under the Zadroga Act, can be funded and fully supported for the first time- will ultimately provide the scientific evidence that Dr. Howard needs to make this determination. Thankfully, we know that today’s announcement is not the last word on the inclusion of cancers in the program.
Indeed, in a press release accompanying yesterday's report, NIOSH said, "The current absence of published scientific and medical findings... does not indicate evidence of the absence of a causal association"