After promising last summer that he would consider new evidence as it comes in, NIOSH Director and WTC Program Administrator Dr. John Howard ruled June 8 that 50 different types of cancer should be covered by the federal fund established to provide medical care to victims exposed to toxics in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA.
The cancers will be added to the list after a period of public comment of 30 days. After the comment period, a few months may be needed before Dr. Howard’s ruling becomes final. Once the cancers are added, people who worked in the response and clean-up, including thousands of Laborers, may receive medical care for these illnesses and may apply for compensation. Fourteen broad categories of cancer are listed, including lung, breast, colon, trachea, esophageal, kidney, bladder, skin, thyroid, blood, ovarian and childhood cancers. Pancreas, brain and prostate cancers are not listed. However, the scientific and technical committee which advised Howard could recommend additions to the list at a later date.
In a report explaining his decision, Howard relied on a New York Fire Department study published last fall in the British medical journal The Lancet. That study showed that firefighters exposed to toxics at Ground Zero had about a 20 percent greater rate of cancer than unexposed firefighters. He also relied on an assessment from the WTC Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee which recommended that cancer be added to the list of covered conditions based on the many carcinogens that were present in the air at the WTC site during the rescue and recovery effort.
“We are pleased that Dr. Howard ruled in such an inclusive way,” says Dr. Jim Melius, Administrator of the New York State Laborers’ Health & Safety Trust Fund and Research Division Director at the LHSFNA. Melius has been involved with 9/11 illness evaluation since the beginning, chairing the Steering Committee for the World Trade Center Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program. “While we need to continue efforts to monitor and evaluate all illness associated with 9/11, we should not make these people wait until all of the scientific research is completed. They are already suffering the consequences. Already, many cancer victims have emerged, and some have died. It was vital that the government affirm its commitment to care for the workers and people whose lives were forever altered on that tragic day.”