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9/11 Panel May Add Cancer Coverage to the Zadroga Act

Pat Guth contributes news and insightful content for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

Patricia Guth

February 23, 2012

New York, New York - A 15-member advisory panel set up by Congress to manage and review and James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act and its $2.8 million Victim Compensation Fund met last week to make recommendations as to which conditions should be covered by the act. The Huffington Post reports that, as of last Wednesday, the panel was close to recommending that some cancers be included.

The Zadroga Act, passed last year, provides “medical monitoring and treatment of 9/11 related health conditions for emergency personnel, rescue, and clean-up workers who responded to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, Pentagon and Shanksville, PA.”

Dr. Philip Landrigan, a dean at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine told the panel that it is clear that the cancer link between the events of Sept. 11 and those who responded to them is becoming clearer and clearer. He and his team of researchers, says Landigran, have recently completed a yet-to-be-published study that shows a 14 percent cancer increase in rescue workers, including what he referred to as “significant” increases in prostate, thyroid, and some blood cancers. The study included 20,000 police officers, firefighters, sanitation workers, construction workers, and others who worked at Ground Zero.

"I think that we’ve reached a point... [where] we can say with a high degree of certainty that the exposures that the responders experienced down there at Ground Zero and the other World Trade Center sites, we can reasonably anticipate that those exposures are going to cause cancer," Landrigan said.

During the panel discussion last week, it was pointed out that a police uniform sealed inside a bag after being worn during the recovery efforts tested positive for a variety of carcinogens including hydrocarbons, heavy metals, and asbestos. One rescue worker, Deborah Reeve, died of mesothelioma – asbestos-caused cancer – just 5 years after 9/11. It generally takes as long as 50 years to develop malignant mesothelioma, an indication of just how much asbestos was in the debris.

Valerie Dabas, a human resources analyst at the police Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and a member of the panel, also noted that she’s seen increases in rare blood and kidney cancers that are extremely uncommon among young men and women such as those developing the diseases.

"I think it’s biologically plausible that anyone that was subject to this is going to have increased rate of cancers," added Steve Cassidy, president of the Fire Department’s Uniformed Firefighters Association, referring to the debris remaining behind after the towers fell as “toxic stew.”

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