Ground Zero Workers May Get Cancer Coverage, But the Health Disaster Remains

9:54 pm in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

WTC 9/11

(photo: slagheap/flickr)

Cross-posted from In These Times

More than a decade after the Twin Towers came crashing down, the disaster still weighs heavily on the bodies of workers and survivors. A federal panel’s recent decision on cancers related to 9/11 could bring some long awaited relief, as well as new challenges for sick survivors of Ground Zero.

The panel’s analysis may open a channel for covering various forms of cancer through the healthcare fund of the federal Zadroga Act, which offers compensation for sicknesses resulting from the disaster. Though the multi-billion dollar fund won’t expand without further congressional action, the panel’s decision is a boost for survivors who had previously met resistance from lawmakers who were reluctant to include cancer care in the program, fearing the potential financial liability.

Joel Shufro, executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health called the decision a breakthrough. “It is the preliminary and necessary first step to including a whole range of people who are suffering from various types of cancer, and essentially opening the door to medical services and compensation,” he said. But he added, “There are number of unanswered questions that still remain,” including challenges people may face in applying for compensation, through a process constrained by the legislation’s five-year time frame and pending federal guidelines on the review process for health claims.

Since 9/11, emergency responders and other survivors have been plagued with health problems associated with dust and pollutants surrounding the “Ground Zero” site. Advocates say the health problems were aggravated by the government’s failure to provide protective gear and other safety measures following the disaster. Read the rest of this entry →