Two major medical studies have concluded there were no "significant" increases in deaths or cancer among people exposed to dust from the World Trade Center, but firefighter advocacy groups are arguing the opposite, saying the numbers are telling enough to indicate a strong correlation between the ground zero dust and increased cancer cases. Andrew Siff reports.
A new medical study supports the argument for including cancers on a list of World Trade Center-linked diseases that qualify for assistance under the national Sept. 11 health program, federal lawmakers said Wednesday.
"The evidence is now compelling," said U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, standing with Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Charles Rangel and Nydia Velazquez at the entrance to the subway station at the trade center site in lower Manhattan. "It's essential that we do this."
They say a recently published study of cancer cases among firefighters exposed to World Trade Center dust from the Sept. 11 attacks supports including cancer to the program's list of diseases.
The lawmakers said they filed a petition with the administrator of the 9/11 health program to require an immediate review of the study, which was published last week in the medical journal The Lancet, and to consider adding coverage for cancers.
The study said the nearly 9,000 firefighters who were exposed to the trade center were 19 percent more likely to have cancer than firefighters who didn't work down near the pile.
The study did note a few potentially worrisome trends, including an unexpected number of thyroid cancers. But cancers can take decades to develop, and the authors of the study cautioned that the seven-year period the study covered might be too brief to make anything but qualified interpretations.
The administrator of the 9/11 Health Program said this past summer that a review of medical evidence failed to support adding cancer to a list of trade center-linked diseases, and the law -- known as the Zadroga Act -- does not pay for benefits in cancer cases.
Federal lawmakers said the new study was still sufficient to revisit the administrator's decision of whether to add cancers to a list of diseased covered under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.
"We don't want to wait until all of the evidence is in," said Rangel, who called the study "a tremendous medical bit of evidence." He said people who were sick could not afford to wait.
Nadler said that they have "always known that many of the chemicals in that that toxic brew that people were breathing causes cancer." And he said they knew with "moral certainty" that a link between 9/11 and cancers existed, but did not have the peer-reviewed studies to support that — until now.
"It would be inhuman to wait for more and more evidence," he said.
Maloney said it was "a definitive study for firefighters, and that's a very healthy portion of our population" of those who were exposed at ground zero.
But she said she would let the medical experts who consult with the 9/11 health program administrator to make the final determination of whether the study is enough to support adding cancers.
"I won't be content, but they have to rely on medical evidence," she said.