NY Lawmakers Applaud Progress Toward Adding Cancer Coverage to WTC Health Program
Washington, D.C. – New York Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler, and Peter King and Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand applauded the unanimous vote today by a federal advisory committee that cancers should be covered under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The vote by the Scientific/Technical Advisory Committee (STAC), a panel created under the Zadroga law to evaluate emerging 9/11-related health conditions, was held following a series of meetings the STAC convened in lower Manhattan this week to solicit public input on covering new illnesses in the 9/11 Health Program. Under the law, 9/11 Health Program Administrator Dr. John Howard will consider the STAC’s advice and render a final decision on whether to add cancer coverage.
“This is an important step toward providing care for cancer-stricken 9/11 responders and survivors,” Maloney said. “I applaud the Committee for reaching this decision and for their hard work. I know that Dr. Howard will move quickly now that the Science Committee has spoken. The process we envisioned for adding coverage under the Zadroga law is working. I’m grateful that Dr. Howard and his advisors are listening not only to new medical research, but to the voices of 9/11 responders and survivors who are suffering.”
"I commend the Science Committee’s unanimous decision that cancers should be covered under our legislation," said Nadler. "This vote confirms what too many responders and survivors have known all along – that the carcinogen-laden toxic dust of 9/11 has created a growing rate of cancer among those who were exposed. It is our duty to help those who came to the aid of our nation in its time of need. Today we are one step closer. I want to thank the committee members for their thoughtful and thorough work on this process."
“I am confident that Dr. Howard will heed the committee’s recommendation, along with mounting scientific evidence, and make the final determination to cover cancer. I thank the committee for bringing us one step closer,” King said.
“Today’s recommendation is a huge first step but we will not rest until we cross the finish line. I was so proud to work with my colleagues in the fight to provide our first responders with the health care they deserved. But we know there are too many heroes suffering and literally dying from cancers obtained at Ground Zero who do not currently have access to the health care they desperately need. Responders and their families continue to suffer physically and financially from these deadly cancers, and the longer they have to wait on a cancer determination, the longer they will continue to suffer without proper treatment or compensation. This program is difference between life and death for police officers, firefighters, first responders and community survivors. We will keep working until a final determination is made and our heroes have access to care,” said Senator Gillibrand.
“While 9/11 remains fresh in all our minds and our hearts, for too many of our first responders, the toxins from that day remain in their bodies causing injuries, including cancers,” said Schumer. “Today is an important step towards making sure our heroes receive the treatment they need and deserve, and I urge Dr. Howard to heed STAC’s recommendation and add cancer to the health issues covered under the Zadroga Act.”
Hundreds of 9/11 responders and survivors have developed cancer and are awaiting a decision on whether their cancers will be covered by the 9/11 Health Program.
In September 2011, the lawmakers and four of their colleagues filed a petition asking Dr. Howard to review the medical evidence showing increased cancer rates among firefighters present at ground zero. A copy of that petition follows below.
September 7, 2011
John Howard, MD
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
395 E Street SW, Suite 9200
Patriots Plaza Building
Washington, DC 20201
Dear Dr. Howard:
As the sponsors of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, we write to file a petition pursuant to Sec. 3312(a)(6) of the Zadroga Act requesting that you conduct an immediate review of new medical evidence showing increased cancer rates among firefighters who served at ground zero and that you consider adding coverage for cancer under the Zadroga Act.
We read with great concern -as we are sure you must have done- the study conducted by the New York City Fire Department and published last week in The Lancet that indicated an elevated risk of melanoma, thyroid and prostate cancer, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma among firefighters who served at ground zero, compared to the general population, and an overall increase in cancers among firefighters exposed to toxins at the World Trade Center site, compared to firefighters who were not exposed to those toxins. As you know, the only peer-reviewed study of possible 9/11-related cancers prior to this one was a small study showing a possible rise in multiple myeloma among 9/11 responders.
On August 8, 2011, we wrote to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius requesting that she act quickly to form the Science/Technical Advisory Committee, as required by the Zadroga Act. A copy of that letter is enclosed. Since the Zadroga Act requires you to take action on our petition within sixty days, and since this committee is charged with reviewing scientific and medical evidence to make recommendations on adding coverage for additional health conditions, we once again respectfully urge the Secretary and you to set up this panel in the next few weeks.
We feel strongly that there must be a scientific basis for adding coverage for new conditions under the Zadroga Act. However, given the severity of the illnesses reported in The Lancet, we also want to make sure that this and other peer-reviewed studies linking cancers to the attacks are evaluated as expeditiously as possible.
Thank you for your attention to this petition, and thank you for your work to establish a strong World Trade Center Health Program.
CAROLYN B. MALONEY
PETER T. KING
CHARLES E. SCHUMER
KIRSTEN E. GILLIBRAND
NYDIA M. VELÁZQUEZ
YVETTE D. CLARKE