50 different cancers will now be covered by a $4.3 billion health and compensation fund established for victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center buildings in New York, after a recent ruling by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Citizens who can potentially qualify for free medical treatment and possible payouts include police, rescue workers, firefighters, volunteers, students, and local residents, as long as they were diagnosed with cancer after breathing the toxic dust that covered the area after the Sept. 11 attack.
Dr. John Howard, director of NIOSH, delivered the ruling, stating, “We recognize how personal the issue of cancer and all of the health conditions related to the World Trade Center tragedy are to 9/11 responders, survivors, and their loved ones.”
11 months before, Howard voiced a contrasting opinion, stating that there was inadequate scientific and medical evidence linking the toxic smoke, fumes, and dust to cancers that develop quickly. For example, mesothelioma, one of the diseases covered by the fund, normally takes from 10-50 years to form before symptoms lead to diagnosis.
Before the recent ruling, a number of health conditions were covered by the fund, including asthma and other respiratory conditions, acid reflux disease, and chronic sinus irritation.
Last week, Howard stated that his ruling was based on a number of factors, such as recommendations from a technical and scientific advisory committee, including cancer, toxicology, and epidemiology experts, in March. An additional influence was substantial public pressure from politicians and their constituents.
Howard claims that it is not going to be possible to separate citizens who developed cancer naturally from those who were or will be diagnosed with cancer that directly results from the terrorist attack.
To make his decision, Howard also consulted a New York City Fire Department study published in the British Medical Journal last fall, which concluded that there is a 20 percent higher rate of cancer amongst firefighters exposed to 9/11 fumes and dust than those who were not exposed.
Mesothelioma is among the 50 cancers on the list of covered diseases, along with melanoma, leukemia, lymphoma, all childhood cancers, and cancer of the lung, breast, ovaries, kidney, colon, esophagus, blood, and urinary tract.