Finally, 9/11 responders with cancer may be able to breathe a small sigh of relief.
After years of sick responders pleading to have their illnesses covered, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health announced today that about 50 cancers will be covered under the World Trade Center Health Program.
“The publication of this final rule marks an important step in the effort to provide needed treatment and care to 9/11 responders and survivors through the WTC Health Program,” NIOSH director Dr. John Howard said in a statement released the day before the eleventh anniversary of Sept. 11.
In June, Howard ruled that the cancers should be added to the list of illnesses that are covered by the Zadroga Act, a $4.3 billion fund that compensates people who are ill from Ground Zero toxic dust.
The act is named for James Zadroga, who died of 9/11-related illnesses.
Cancers that will be covered include lung, colon, trachea and esophageal cancers.
The coverage will include both rescue workers and residents or people who were in the area and may have been affected.
Responders had previously been told cancer would not be covered.
About 1,000 people have died from 9/11-related illnesses, Reuters estimated. The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association reported earlier this year that 65 officers have died of cancer since 9/11, and that another 297 were diagnosed.
In the past seven weeks, three New York City cops, two firefighters and a construction union worker who toiled at Ground Zero died of cancer or respiratory illnesses, according to John Feal of the FealGood Foundation, which helps responders.
"2,751 lives were lost that day," Feal said." That's sad, but they didn't suffer
long. These first responders have been slowly dying for 11 years."
"We're burying guys left and right," added Nancy Carbone, executive director of Friends of Firefighters, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit that helps treat first responders. "This is an ongoing epidemic."
Some had questioned whether enough research connected the cancers to toxins at Ground Zero.
But responders, and often their doctors, noted that responders had an alarming amount of unusual cancers.
Last year, a report in medical journal The Lancet found that firefighters who worked at Ground Zero had a 19 percent greater change of getting cancer.
“Today’s announcement is a huge step forward that will provide justice and support to so many who are now suffering from cancer and other illnesses," New York Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer said in a joint statement released this afternoon.