Cancer coverage for WTC exposures under the Zadroga Act

On Tuesday, I posted on 3 studies in The Lancet on 9/11 health issues from survivors at the WTC. Quick summary: 9/11 rescue and recovery workers and other WTC-exposed people are living longer, but possibly sicker, than average. They are not dying in greater numbers from heart & lung diseases or cancer, but the 8927 FDNY responders at the WTC may have from 4 – 38 additional cancers since 9/11.

One reason the cancer study received more attention (see Wednesday’s post on the media coverage) was the July 2011 decision at NIOSH to not cover cancers in one of the federal funds set up for WTC survivors, the Zadroga Act (see the recent GAO Report on the nuts and bolts of the Zadroga Act). Survivors reacted with understandable anger and frustration, packing town hall meetings in late July to tell their cancer stories.  This is a common theme here at TIE – data v. anecdotes.

NIOSH didn’t act in a vacuum. Congress asked NIOSH to periodically review the scientific and medical evidence and publish their findings. NIOSH also funded the 3 Lancet studies, as well as many others. The first periodic review (July 2011 full report pdf) is a systematic review of the published evidence. The conclusion:

Based on the scientific and medical findings in the peer-reviewed literature reported in this first periodic review of cancer for the WTC Health Program, insufficient evidence exists at this time to propose a rule to add cancer, or a certain type of cancer, to the List of WTC-Related Health Conditions.

The next review is scheduled for the middle of 2012, which will include discussions of these new studies.

If the 38 (or 4) additional cancers could be accurately identified, coverage would be an easy decision. But should the Zadroga Act cover all 263 cancers in order to be sure that the 38 (or 4) WTC-exposure related ones are covered?

UPDATE: In response to the comment, the final House vote on the Zadroga Act had 60 no votes led by Cantor & Republicans, plus a very large number of absent Republican Members who did not vote. The final Senate vote was straight party line, opposed by the Republicans. I’m told the Republicans thought the bill too generous to WTC workers.

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