FDNY Battalion Chief James Lemonda, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, has called for a national cancer registry to gather information necessary to better treat suffering 9/11 responders. At a press conference two days before the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Chief Lemonda voiced support for a proposed bill from Sen. Chuck Schumer. By cataloguing incidents of cancer and associated illnesses, a registry could help develop medical evidence of a causal connection between toxic exposure at Ground Zero and certain health conditions. This would make it easier to add new conditions to the Zadroga Act, so affected survivors could receive benefits.
According to the Courthouse News Service, UFOA “estimates that 10,233 first responders within the FDNY have come down with at least one condition with a certified link to the 9/11 attacks.” In addition to the 343 firefighters who died the day of the attack, the union reports that 127 have succumbed to illnesses caused by rescue efforts. On Tuesday, September 6, “FDNY added 17 names to its own World Trade Center Memorial Wall commemorating its fallen.” Yet, a far greater number continue to suffer. “Another 1,396 are coping with cancer, in addition to 5,723 gastrointestinal, 5,557 upper respiratory and 5,456 respiratory illnesses, the union says.”
Because of the latency period of different types of diseases, new 9/11-related illnesses emerge frequently. But there is usually a struggle to get new illnesses added to the list of recognized conditions so that patients can access services. Prostate cancer was just one of the conditions that authorities resisted adding to the list until medical evidence became undeniable. Experts have warned that mesothelioma, with its 30- to 40-year latency period could be a ticking time bomb among the responder population.
Currently, the World Trade Center Health Program “provides medical monitoring and treatment for responders at the WTC and related sites in New York City, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, PA, and survivors who were in the New York City disaster area.” These programs have provided valuable research linking health conditions to toxic exposure at Ground Zero. As advocates for 9/11 responders and survivors, we favor any proposals that would make it easier to identify 9/11-related health conditions and get benefits to afflicted survivors. But it is not immediately clear how the registry that Chief Lemonda advocates would operate differently from the monitoring already underway at the WTC Health Program.
If you are suffering from a post-9/11 illness, contact the experienced attorneys who have represented 9/11 survivors from the outset. Call Barasch, McGarry, Salzman & Penson at [ln::phone] or contact our office online.