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Cancer rates in the NYPD have risen about 50 percent since Sept. 11, 2001

MAB, Joe Zadroga, Peter King 2012-Formatted

Joe Zadroga, Congressman Peter King, and Michael Barasch

According to a long-term study published this month in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, NYPD Chief Surgeon Dr. Eli Kleinman, along with scientists at Columbia University Medical Center and Weill Cornell Medical College, found a roughly 50-percent increase in all cancers after Sept. 11, with especially alarming rates of four specific types: Brain and kidney cancers more than tripled in frequency; thyroid cancer rates more than doubled, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma appeared 68 percent more often.  The study focused on the nearly-40,000 cops who were working for the department on 9/11 and compared the diagnoses for a 20-year period covering 1995 through 2014.

All 668 officers diagnosed with cancer after Sept. 11 served at one of the World Trade Center sites after the attacks, as did nearly all of their colleagues. They performed rescue and recovery work downtown, sifted through remains at a temporary morgue, worked at the Fresh Kills Landfill or a Medical Examiner’s Office location, or helped to transport debris on Hudson River barges.

The researchers discovered that 81 percent of the officers who developed cancer after 9/11 served downtown at the Trade Center site sometime in the year after the attacks. Fifty-six percent of them were there within the first 24 hours.  The researchers called for first-responders to watch their health.

They cautioned that because many of the officers were enrolled in the World Trade Center monitoring program, there was a possibility that more screening led to more cancer findings. But the four cancers researchers were most concerned about—brain, kidney, thyroid and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma—were “not prominently featured in awareness campaigns, nor easily lent to self-examination,” they noted.  The overwhelming majority of officers with those cancers were diagnosed because they had serious symptoms, not due to routine screening.

The NYPD study is the largest to look at Sept. 11 cancer among police officers. It follows several studies of other first-responders, including groundbreaking reviews of firefighter health that showed elevated rates of cancer among them. More NYPD officers have now died of Sept. 11-related illness than perished on the day of the attacks.

The Importance of extending the Zadroga Act and proving full funding for compensation awards

On October 1st, Congress failed to extend the Zadroga Health and Compensation Act.  Funding for medical treatment will now begin to evaporate.  Doctors who now work at the WTC Health Program suspect that the funding will be gone by next spring.  Not surprisingly, doctors with the most experience treating 9/11 illnesses have begun  to search for new jobs, knowing that their current workplaces will soon close.  As a result of cancer studies like the one by the NYPD, above, thousands of cancer victims have made claims which means that sick claimants who receive awards from the Victim Compensation Fund are likely to get less than 50% of their award determinations.

Richard Steier of the Chief, a municipal weekly paper, wrote that “an extension of the Zadroga Act, victims—many of them first-responders—will reach a point when they will either have to exhaust their savings to continue treatment or will be forced to do without treatment and/or medications that are literally life-sustaining. There is simply no justification for allowing it to come to this”.

The extension bill has become a priority for the bipartisan trio of New York members of the House of Representatives, Republican Peter King and Democrats Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler. As they noted, “These men and woman won’t suddenly stop being sick when the programs expire. The costs of their medication or of the time off from work won’t suddenly stop because Congress failed to act.”

Lobbying for the extension in Washington

Mike Barasch joined 9/11 activist John Feal, and 20 sick first responders, last week in D.C.  First, they visited Congressman King’s office  to thank his staff for all of their support and hard work. King and his staff have been key advocates on behalf of the Zadroga extension bill, currently pending in Congress. After visiting King, Feal’s group split up into 4 groups of 5 and spent the rest of the day meeting with approximately 40 republican representatives in Congress.  By the time their exhausting day was over, another 3 representatives had agreed to co-sponsor the bill and several others pledged to “study” its merits.  The group reminded the legislative assistants, many whom were in grade school when the attacks occurred in 2001, that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were aimed at the entire nation, not just a small area of New York City. They educated the staff aides that Christie Whitman, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, had assured all New Yorkers that “the air is safe.”  At the time, many suspected that her comments were motivated by the Government’s interest in opening up Wall Street.  Scientific studies have proven her wrong.

Taking care of those who survived but whose health has deteriorated due to their exposure to the toxic dust should be viewed as a national responsibility. By the end of their visit, the number of Senators who have agreed to co-sponsor the extension is 58, while 202 representatives have agreed to co-sponsor (all New York, New Jersey and Connecticut politicians are on board).  We are making progress, but we need the support of all the congressional representatives who live outside of the tri-state area in order to ensure passage of the bill.  Please verify that your representative and senators have officially agreed to co-sponsor the legislation. The easiest way to check is to visit the web site of the Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act. Go to http://www.renew911health.org/.  Then click on the blue box that says “Contact Congress.”

If your representative and senators haven’t officially agreed to support the extension, call them daily.  Tell them that you are one of their concerned constituents.  Explain to them why continuation of the health care program and full compensation are personally so important to you.  Remind them that  the Government owes a moral responsibility to the thousands of people who worked in the rescue and recovery operations, and to those who moved back downtown after they were misled by the EPA.   Approximately 70,000 people have now registered for health care from the WTC Health Program.  They live in all 50 states, including 420 or the 435 congressional districts.  This continues to be a national issue.

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