People exposed to toxins at WTC site during 9/11 call for cancer coverage

In the wake of several new studies that indicate an increased risk of cancer among firefighters and others exposed to toxins at the World Trade Center site during 9/11, there is an outcry to include cancer among the conditions eligible for coverage by the James Zagroda 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

The legislation was signed into law in January, and and established a $2.8 billion federal fund that is supposed to provide health care and compensation for people who were sickened following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center as a result of their exposure to dust and debris at and around the site. The legislation may cover first responders, as well as workers who helped clear the site in the days, weeks and months following the terrorist attack.

However, cancer was excluded as a covered condition. The exclusion was announced in July, following a review by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which said there was “too little scientific evidence linking cancer to time spent amid the dust and wreckage.”

This, despite research that indicated from the beginning that the dust resulting from the burning and collapse of the World Trade Center buildings contained such known carcinogens as dioxins and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, as well as asbestos, which is linked to the development of mesothelioma.

With the release of new data gathered with the added perspective of time, there is a call for further review of the policies governing the compensation fund, to expand coverage for cancer. Many believe incidences of cancer linked to WTC site exposure will only increase as more time passes. Researchers note that “many cancers, including mesothelioma and other malignancies related to the known toxins found at Ground Zero, can take decades to develop,” according to a Huffington Post report.

Fred Blosser, a public affairs officer with NIOSH, told the Huffington Post the agency will review the new studies, and plans to conduct a second periodic review in early to mid-2012.

George Wong, a police officer who worked at the World Trade Center site during 9/11,  died recently after a 2-year battle with gastric cancer. On his death certificate, doctors  listed the cause of death as “9/11 toxins,” but the New York health department still maintains there is no conclusive link between illnesses and 9/11 toxins. His cause of death was questioned by the medical examiner, and the City took the officer’s body for further examination following his wake. Watch the video.

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