On December 22, 2010, Congress passed the Zadroga Act (in honor of NYPD Officer James Zadroga, who died of respiratory complications years after being a first responder on the scene at 9/11). The bill, signed by President Obama in January 2011, allocates $2.7 billion dollars to 9/11 first responders who later became ill from exposure to toxic substances, such as asbestos, working through the rubble at the World Trade Center following terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
The Zadroga Act was written to protect and medically assist 9/11 first responders who inhaled or ingested caustic substances at Ground Zero. James Zadroga died from toxic ‘dust’ ingested while performing search and rescue duties at Ground Zero. His autopsy was not clear about exactly what combination of various toxins he inhaled, but about 400 tons of asbestos was in the buildings when they collapsed, which begs the question: how many other people in New York City were vulnerable?
Nevertheless, there appears to be a little hitch. The original legislation, it seems, covers lesser health issues such as chronic coughing, laryngitis and carpal tunnel syndrome — but not cancer.
Friday federal health officials boldly proposed that nearly 50 different cancers be covered under the bill. But it is uncertain whether any cancer will be covered— unless it causes laryngitis or chronic coughing…
We sincerely hope we’re reading this wrong, but at this juncture no concrete details have yet been released; only a proposed list of certain cancers has been brought forward by NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health).
Whether or not cancers are indeed covered by the Zadroga Bill, NIOSH’s most preposterous claim is that no proven link exists between cancer and exposure to toxins. In recent days Dr. John Howard, Director of NIOSH, seems to have recapitulated; he is now reversing his previous position and recommending that cancer be covered by the fund.
Notwithstanding his new found advocacy, the fund allegedly only covers health issues up to five years as opposed to the originally proposed 30 years. And certain cancers, mesothelioma, for example, sometimes don’t present themselves until four or five decades after initial exposure occurs.
Now that the list has been proposed, it is open to public commentary for 30 days. We are keeping a close eye as this story unfolds.
AFTER THE FACT: Monday, September 10, 2012, the federal government announced that the Zedroga Act will cover 50 types of cancer contracted by 9/11 first responders.