A medical advisory panel assigned by Congress recommended that mesothelioma be added to the list of ailments covered under the Zadroga Health Care Act designed to help those affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center a decade ago.
The panel recommended that a variety of cancers should be covered, while still leaving off others because of a lack of scientific evidence linking the diseases to the toxic dust that covered Lower Manhattan for weeks after the attack.
The 15-member panel, which included scientists, doctors and community activists, debated the issues during a 4 and one half hour teleconference earlier this week, according to a report by DNAinfo.com. They voted against a blanket recommendation that would have included all cancers.
The World Trade Center Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee will submit its recommendations next week to John Howard, M.D., the WTC Health Program administrator. Howard will have 60 days to make a final decision.
Original Legislation Didn’t Cover Cancer
No cancers were included among the conditions covered in the original $2.8 billion Zadroga Act that Congress approved in 2010. The government did not have enough evidence to prove that inhaling the dust in 2001 had led to the cancers developed years later.
At stake now is whether cancer victims who lived or worked near Ground Zero will be covered for medical treatment and disability compensation. Many of them were policemen and women, firemen and other rescue workers and first-responders to the aftermath of the attack.
Some already have died. Others have fought for coverage for years.
Typically, mesothelioma cancer does not begin showing any symptoms until at least 10 years after the inhalation of asbestos fibers. The latency period can be as long as 50 years afterward.
Early symptoms often mimic those of less-serious illnesses, making the disease difficult to diagnose and then treat effectively.
Early Stages of a ’15-Round Fight’
Other cancers on the recommended list include thyroid, breast, oral, ovarian, liver, stomach, esophageal, urinary tract, leukemia, melanoma and lymphoma.
Excluded from the list are brain cancer, pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.
“Scientific evidence finally has caught up with what we’ve long known — that the toxins from the collapse of the World Trade Center towers are linked directly to increased cancer rates among 9/11 responders and survivors,” read a joint statement by New York Congress members Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler and Peter King.
Many victims advocates and first responders have been arguing for years that studies have shown that those who ingested toxic chemicals like asbestos have a much-higher risk of developing cancer. Various studies have shown that individuals who had worked among the World Trade Center rubble have been hit harder by various cancers.
“This round 3 in a 15-round fight,” first responder and advocate John Feal told the New York Daily News. “It’s a victory that they added what they did. By the end, I think the right cancers will be on the list.”