Today is the eleven-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Towers, the Pentagon and the disrupted, terrorist attack that ended as a plane crash over Schwenksville, PA. Yesterday, the National Institute of Occupational Health announced the addition of 14 categories and 58 types of cancer to the list of ailments covered by the World Trade Center Health Program becoming a kind of victory for 9/11 first responders. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-57509925/government-to-cover-cancer-health-care-costs-for-9-11-responders-and-victims/
The rule will be published Wednesday in the Federal Register and takes effect 30 days after the publication date. The World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program initiated in 2011, was granted capped funding from Congress at $1.55 billion for treatment and $2.78 billion for compensation benefits. Over 60, 000 people who lived or worked within the disaster area have already enrolled. The expanded eligibility criteria include cancers of the lung, breast and colon, mesothelioma, leukemia and lymphoma, as well as all childhood cancers and could add up to 25, 000 more enrollees without increasing the funding level. There are concerns that the funding will be insufficient to effectively address the burden of cancer illnesses arising in first responders. http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jGqwWWVgYjOouQsr2VphGIDRL05Q?docId=839fbbd812ca434ca0049e25b34085ca
Originally, the WTC Health Program resulted from passage of the December 2010, James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, named in honor of a New York police officer who died of a respiratory disease at 34 years of age whose condition was attributed to working amid the toxic chemicals at the attack site. The Zadroga Act was designed to provide medical services and compensation for responders who were exposed to toxins while working at ground zero as well as those working at the Pentagon outside Washington. It is estimated that at least 1, 000 deaths have arisen from conditions related to the September 11 attacks including nine more names etched last week into a memorial wall honoring New York City firefighters who died from illnesses after their work at Ground Zero. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/10/us-usa-sept11-health-idUSBRE88917Z20120910
Director at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Dr. Michael Crane stated, “They did a magnificent thing, showing not only scientific acumen but also a generosity of spirit”, praising the recent addition of various cancers to the WTC Health Program”. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health announced reported on that first responders and survivors were exposed to toxic compounds and human carcinogens from the wreckage, which smoldered for three months. The toxic mixture included combustion products from 20,000 gallons of jet fuel, 100,000 tons of organic debris, and 100,000 gallons of heating and diesel oil, and dust from building debris including asbestos, silica, hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls – totaling 287 chemicals. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/10/us-usa-sept11-health-idUSBRE88917Z20120910
Expanding coverage for cancers under the WTC Health Program has been an uphill battle by scientists, first responders, survivors and their families. Tragically, two major epidemiologic reviews in 2006 and 2007, found insufficient evidence for a causal association between September 11, 2001 exposures and cancer resulting in prior rulings against the inclusion of cancer coverage. The turning point began in March 2011, when the science advisors for WTC program wrote to Dr. John Howard, administrator of the World Trade Center Health Program. Dr. Howard then proposed that the program accept the recommendations of its Science/Technical Advisory Committee that had offered that 15 compounds in the smoke, dust and gas at the WTC site are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as known to cause cancer in people and that many more responders and survivors had high levels of inflammation that has been linked to an elevated risk of cancer. http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/10/health/new-york-wtc-cancer/index.html
The committee recommended that the program cover cancers meeting any of three criteria: cancers caused by any 9/11 compound which the IARC classifies as a human carcinogen, cancers where high levels of inflammation have been documented, and cancers that epidemiology studies suggest that responders are at higher risk for than the general population, including multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkins lymphoma, occurring in unusually high levels for New York City firefighters who worked at the WTC site. To meet the primary eligibility criteria, individual 9/11 first responders or survivors who request treatment of a covered condition must first by certified by a healthcare professional from an approved WTC health program center. http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/10/health/new-york-wtc-cancer/index.html
On this day, eleven years since the original tragic events of 9/11, it is fitting to offer a kind of victory to the 9/11 first responders that risk their health to save, protect and serve so many others. Read more about the eligibility for the World Trade Center Health Program, visit http://www.cdc.gov/wtc.