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The Improved Zadroga Act: Help a Little Too Late for Heroes that Fight for their Lives

Updated on September 11, 2012
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A Long Time Coming

The U.S. Government recently announced that they will finally add an array of cancers in the medical plan termed the Zadroga Act for 9/11 workers and victims. This announcement comes nearly six years after the death of 34 year-old James Zadroga, a NYPD police officer who spent hundreds of hours working in the 9/11 aftermath which resulted in a debilitating respiratory disease and his ultimate death in 2006. Despite his dedication to his country in a great time of need and the massive extent of chemical exposure during his countless hours of work in the 9/11 debris; controversy remains about the cause of his death due to multiple coroner autopsies and questioning by New York officials. Four years after Zadroga's death and nine years after the terrorist attacks, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 was enacted which created the World Trade Center Health Program to provide medical benefits to those affected by the 9/11 attacks. However, the medical conditions initially covered were only respiratory disorders, digestive disorders, mental health conditions, and musculoskeletal conditions. The act mentioned the possibility of cancer being a future health coverage, but none were covered in the Act of 2010.

Carcinogens + Exposure = Cancer: Was it That Difficult?

What made it so difficult for the U.S. Government to support the fact that the carcinogens of the 9/11 debris cause cancer? I wonder how the Surgeon General got away with this one; I guess she got too busy making labels for the nation's tobacco smokers and beer drinkers. Approximately 12,500 firefighters were first responders to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 which resulted in the exposure of numerous of chemical and carcinogens that included: aerosolized cement, glass fibers, asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls and furans, dioxins, lead, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and toxic fumes from burning jet fuel over the 10-month recovery effort at the World Trade Center.(Zeig-Owens et al., 2011)

One year ago, The Lancet, a renowned medical journal published a study concerning the increased risk of cancer in a population of 9,583 FDNY male firefighters after the 9/11 attacks. (Zeig-Owens et al., 2011) The authors acknowledged that a separate study demonstrated the existence of 8 cases of Multiple Myeloma diagnosed in world trade center first responders since 9/11. The study by Zeig-Owens et al. (2011) demonstrated that World Trade Center-exposed firefighters had a 10% higher overall incidence of cancer than the general male population and a 32% higher incidence rate than in non-exposed firefighters. The forms of cancer ranged from digestive, reproductive, respiratory, lymphatic tissue, and blood (such as Multiple Myeloma that is now covered by the new act). The study was careful to note that could not generalize their findings due to firefighters' nature of work which includes frequent exposure to carcinogens. However, it doesn't take a doctorate to understand the cause and effect relationship of carcinogen exposure and cancer.The 10 month clean-up of Ground Zero placed thousands of workers at risk for occupational exposure and the government has finally caught on.

Carcinogen-induced Complications & Coverage

Carcinogens/Chemicals
Complications
Covered in Updated Zadroga Act
Asbestos
Mesothelioma, Lung Cancer, Respiratory conditions
Yes
Lead
Psychological disorders, Kidney cancer
Yes
Lead
Kidney Disease
No
polychlorinated biphenyls
Childhood cancer (due to maternal exposure)
Yes
Polychlorinated furans & dioxins
Psychological disorders
Yes
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
Head, neck, lung cancers
Yes
Aerosolized cement & glass fibers
Respiratory conditions
Yes
*This list is not all-inclusive and provides a general idea of cause & effect, and updated coverage
 
 
Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry render honors as fire fighters and rescue workers unfurl a huge American flag over the side of the Pentagon as rescue and recovery efforts continued following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack.
Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry render honors as fire fighters and rescue workers unfurl a huge American flag over the side of the Pentagon as rescue and recovery efforts continued following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. | Source

Our Heroes and Victims of 9/11 Deserve More

It is disheartening to know that the U.S. Government has to debate about the type of medical care they will provide to 9/11 workers and victims. Haven't they been through enough? I feel that the government and we (collectively, as a country) owe more to these people who experienced 9/11 first hand. The workers and volunteers of 9/11 could have refused to work, they could have said their job was impossible and given up, and we would have all watched as our nation crumbled. But they didn't stop nor did they give up. Instead, those workers gave the victims as well as our nation - hope. The hope that we could overcome such a tragedy and amongst all the rubble, we could stand together as a country fighting for our freedom. The medical needs of the workers and victims of 9/11 should not have been ignored for this long and the least we can do is provide them with the most comprehensive and compassionate care they deserve. They truly are American Heroes.

Reference

Zeig-Owens, R., Webber, M.P., Hall, C.B., Schwartz, T., Jaber, N.... & Prezant, D.J. (2011). Early assessment of cancer outcomes in New York firefighters after the 9/11 attacks: an observational cohort study. The Lancet, 378(9794), 898-905.

www.cdc.gov

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