NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The federal government announced Monday that dozens of types of cancer will now be covered under a healthcare fund for first responders of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
More than a decade after 9/11, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health will add 50 types of cancer to the Zadroga Act, meaning those affected will have access to the $2.7 billion compensation fund.
“It’s a great decision for anybody suffering from cancer today. The bottom line is men and women came down here, inhaled unbelievable toxins into their lungs and today we are recognizing they are going to be suffering from cancer and it can be a problem in the future,” Riordan said.
Riordan and attorney Michael Barasch represent hundreds of rescue workers who have come down with cancer since working at ground zero. They also represent thousands of others who could get sick in the future since many cancers take years to develop.
“I’m not a doctor, but I’ve been told by pulmonologists that the outbreak of serious pulmonary disease and respiratory cancers is going to be astronomical over the next 10 years,” Barasch told CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.
The ruling by the federal government expected to be formalized this week overturns previous determinations that there was little evidence to link cancers to the toxins found at ground zero.
Some of the following types of cancer were expected to be covered:
- Respiratory system
- Digestive system
- Oral cavity
- Urinary tract
- Blood cancers
- Soft tissue sarcomas
- Certain childhood cancers
Even though the decision is being hailed as a major breakthrough, there is concern that with the addition of the new diseases, there won’t be enough money in the fund to cover all those who need it. First responder advocates call the inclusion of dozens of cancers a good first step, but point out that with more victims, each will get a smaller slice of the compensation fund.
“There simply isn’t enough money,” Barasch said. “There are so many rescue workers with debilitating diseases and they’re simply not going to get a fair amount.”
Lawmakers said more money is needed and that should rest with the federal government. Members of the New York congressional delegation will now have to fight for more money to get the bill extended beyond 2016, when it is set to expire, CBS 2’s Kramer reported.
“There will be a recognition in Washington that it is time to add the funding in an expansive way,” said Suffolk County legislator John M. Kennedy, Jr.
In a statement, Sen. Charles Schumer said: “It took too long, but the right thing is finally being done for 9/11 heroes.”
Last week, the FDNY added nine names to the World Trade Center Memorial Wall in honor of firefighters who died from 9/11-related illnesses.
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