First responders and others who say they became ill after working at ground zero voiced anger and disappointment at a town hall meeting in New York about a $2.8 billion federal fund for them.
Federal officials had announced Tuesday that those with cancer will continue to be excluded from the federal help for those who say they were sickened while working in the World Trade Center wreckage after the Sept. 11 attacks.
A few dozen of them gathered at the meeting Wednesday night. The tone remained respectful toward fund administrator Sheila Birnbaum. But retired police detective John Marshall made a forceful argument by standing and speaking through a breathing tube he has needed since treatment for throat cancer.
Some first responders and people who lived near the lower Manhattan site on Sept. 11, 2001, believe their cancer is connected to the cloud of toxins that bloomed from the destruction of the 110-story WTC twin towers. But a federal review, by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, determined that “very little” evidence had been reported on the link between the massive toxic cloud and cancer.
The report said only one peer-reviewed article was published on the subject in 2009 and two others were based on models to estimate the risk of cancer.
Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand called on the director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to accelerate research and data collection to examine the links between cancer and exposure to contaminants at ground zero.
“So many people have gotten such rare cancers – and at young ages – that it seems obvious there must be a link,” he said in a statement.
The Zadroga Act, named for a police detective who died at age 34 after working at ground zero, was created to aid those who were sickened. It guarantees that those facing health problems related to Sept. 11 will be monitored by doctors and receive treatment at least until 2015. It also requires the administrator of the World Trade Center Health Program, established by the act, to review medical evidence to determine if there is reason to add cancer to the list of diseases covered.
The next review will be conducted in early to mid-2012.
The cause of Zadroga’s 2006 death continues to be debated. His supporters say he died from respiratory disease contracted at ground zero. But the city’s medical examiner said his lung condition was caused by prescription drug abuse, not by World Trade Center particles.