NY pols: Aid 9/11 responders with cancerBy JOHN RILEY
September 8, 2011
Eight members of New York's congressional delegation petitioned Wednesday to add cancer coverage to the federal Sept. 11 compensation fund in the wake of a new study suggesting an elevated cancer risk for firefighters who worked at Ground Zero.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health will have 60 days to decide if the new study is enough to alter its July ruling that scientific evidence of a cancer link to Ground Zero work was insufficient.
"The evidence is now compelling as to the causation of cancer by toxins after Sept. 11," Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan), a leader in the compensation legislation, said at a news conference near Ground Zero. "It's essential that we do this."
The $4.75 billion fund provides monitoring, treatment and compensation to first responders and others whose health suffered as a result of 9/11. It covers asthma and other respiratory ailments, but Congress left the decision on covering cancer up to NIOSH.
In a study published last week in the medical journal Lancet, researchers reported that city firefighters who responded to Ground Zero were 19 percent more likely to get cancer than firefighters who did not respond, and 10 percent more likely than the general public.
Dr. David Prezant, the FDNY medical officer who conducted the study, said the elevated risk was significant but "not an epidemic." It covered records of nearly 10,000 firefighters from 2001 to 2008. Similar studies of police and other Ground Zero workers do not exist.
John Feal of Nesconset, who heads an advocacy group for 9/11 first responders, praised the push from the New York delegation to get NIOSH to reconsider, and said he would lobby to get Congress to do so.
He said he knew there was a cancer connection just from attending funerals. "I don't need a doctor or a scientist to tell me," he said. ". . . We're going to get more money, we're going to get cancer added. We will not take no for an answer."
The letter to Dr. John Howard, the Sept. 11 program head at NIOSH, was also signed by Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats, Republican
Reps. Peter King of Seaford, Michael Grimm of Staten Island, and Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloney of Manhattan, Nydia Velazquez of Brooklyn and Charles Rangel of Harlem.
"It is imperative that Dr. Howard add cancer to the list of covered conditions so that these responders can get the care they so obviously need and deserve from their time at Ground Zero," King said.
Maloney acknowledged that some responders would have gotten cancer even without Sept. 11, but that a generous response was the right message to send. "We should provide proper care for cancer-stricken 9/11 heroes and heroines, even if that means treating a few cancers that may not have been caused by the attacks," she said in a statement. "The benefits far outweigh the costs."