Legislation & Litigation

Mesothelioma Among Cancers Not Covered Under Latest Federal Funding For 9/11 Victims

Written By:
Aug 05, 2011
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Written By: Tim Povtak,
August 5, 2011

Anyone diagnosed with mesothelioma — the cancer caused by an exposure to asbestos — will not qualify for help under the recently-appropriated $2.8 billion federal fund supposedly designed for those still suffering from sickness linked to the 9/11 terrorist attack a decade ago.

You are out of luck — at least for now.

Even though an estimated 400 tons of asbestos fibers were in the air following the collapse of the Twin Towers, part of the deadly fog that blanketing the city and particularly the rescue workers, no cancers will be covered under the new Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Fund.

The omission has infuriated many of the families of those affected — many of whom attended last week’s town-hall meetings that explained the fund — and frustrated patient advocates.

“It’s deadly when politics steps in front of public health,” said Linda Reinstein, president/CEO and co-founder of Asbestos Disease Awareness Organizations (ADOA).

NIOSH Says Cancer Omission Because of Lack of Evidence

The disbursement of the money will begin this fall, leaving out many of those most seriously affected with various forms of cancer they believe are directly related to the 9/11 attack and its aftermath.

In determining what was eligible to be covered, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health said there was too little scientific evidence linking cancer to the time spent amid the wreckage and dust around the World Trade Center attack.

The fund is an extension of the original bill that distributed $7 billion to families and victims in the two years following the event.

“The 9/11 rescue workers not only deserve our respect, but the treatments for any and all diseases, including cancer, that may have resulted from their exposure to carcinogens released from the World Trade Center disaster,” Reinstein told Asbestos.com.

The Centers for Disease Control earlier reported that 62 percent of the individuals caught in the dust cloud of the fallen towers had suffered from respiratory problems. In addition, 46 percent of those who lived or worked in the area and still avoided the original dust cloud reported consistent respiratory illnesses.

The CDC has reported that among the substances present in the air in the aftermath were heavy concentrations of lead, mercury, cadmium, glass shards, fiberglass, dioxins, pulverized concrete, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and benzene. There were many more heavy metals that burned in the fires that lasted for months after the attack.

Asbestos Materials Abundant in World Trade Center

Asbestos was so prevalent because of its use in the construction of the Towers that began in the late ’60s, before the dangers of the mineral were fully understood. Asbestos was used everywhere as a fire retardant in the frames of both buildings, in insulation, in floor tiles and other places. The National Resources Defense Council report of 2002 estimated that at least 400 tons of asbestos were used in construction.

The inhalation of asbestos fibers has been linked with several respiratory diseases, including lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma, a cancer which effects the linings of the lungs. It can take anywhere from 15 to 50 years after exposure for symptoms to appear, although two 9/11 responders have already passed away from mesothelioma and developed their symptoms much earlier than the norm.

Illnesses that are covered in the act include chronic cough, sinusitis, asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disorder, pulmonary fibrosis, muscular problems, and many mental health disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

The absence of cancer from the list of illnesses covered disappointed even some of the New York lawmakers who originally praised the legislation and helped to sponsor it.

“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,” said New York Representatives Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler and Peter King in a joint statement last month.

The Fund is expected to be distributed over the next five years, leaving open the possibility of including other diseases.

“It’s just ridiculous that cancer wasn’t included,” Reinstein said.

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