Call to cover cancer in Zadroga billBy JENNIFER BARRIOS
March 4, 2011
At a public meeting in Manhattan Thursday, first responders from Long Island and beyond called on government officials to add cancer to the list of 9/11-related illnesses covered as part of the Zadroga Act.
"We were all poisoned down there," said Steven Choinski, 51, of East Northport, a former NYPD officer who was sickened after working at Ground Zero. "Let's not learn the hard way. Let's help people with cancer before they all perish."
The meeting was held before Dr. John Howard, director of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, the agency that will carry out the health care provisions of the Zadroga Act. It was held at the request of Reps. Peter King (R-Seaford), Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan) and Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan), authors of the bill.
The Zadroga Act, passed by Congress in December and signed by President Barack Obama on Jan. 2, funds $1.2 billion in health care over five years for those sickened by Ground Zero toxins, and provides $2.8 billion in compensation over six years to first responders and survivors. The act was named after James Zadroga, an NYPD detective who died in 2006 of respiratory disease connected to his work at Ground Zero.
Members of the FealGood Foundation, a Nesconset-based nonprofit group that advocates for 9/11 first responders, presented a 17-page book of recommendations for health care under Zadroga, including adding cancer as a covered illness and recognizing post-traumatic stress disorder as a stand-alone condition for which responders and survivors can seek treatment.
Anthony Flammia, a former officer with the NYPD highway patrol unit who worked at Ground Zero for over 200 hours, said at the meeting that he was concerned that treatment options, such as alternative therapies and integrated treatment, would be limited under Zadroga.
"The medical and scientific communities have not seen anything like the fallout from 9/11," said Flammia, a Suffolk County resident who is also a board member with the FealGood Foundation. "We need to reach beyond the current Band-Aid approach."
Bruce Edwards, 54, of Ronkonkoma, an electrician who spent 18 months working at a building next to Ground Zero, urged federal health and safety officials to track data on people suffering from cancer.
"We're not included in these studies," said Edwards, whose non-Hodgkins lymphoma is in remission. "We're pushed aside and it's really affecting our lives."At one of the breaks in the roughly five-hour meeting, former FDNY EMS lieutenant Bill Gleason, 50, of Hicksville, said he was hopeful that the responders made an impact on Howard.
"They're listening to us," Gleason said. "That's probably the most important thing out of this hearing."