Jon Stewart is not coming back to The Daily Show on a permanent basis, but his return on Dec. 7 made a serious impact. (If you missed it, watch it here.)

Stewart made a special appearance to shine a searing hot spotlight on Congress’ inability to extend the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The purpose of the Act was to provide medical to first responders and other rescue workers who became ill due to their work at Ground Zero after the terrorist attacks. Originally made into law in 2011, the Act expired on October 1 of this year.

What is the Zadroga Act?

The Zadroga Act is named after James Zadroga, a New York City police detective who died in 2006 due to respiratory disease. A non-smoker with no known history of any respiratory problems, Zadroga spent approximately 450 hours at Ground Zero helping with recovery efforts after the attacks. Just months afterward, he began suffering from shortness of breath and was unable to walk more than 100 feet without gasping for air.

Zadroga was given permanent disability by the department in 2004, which concluded that the extreme exposure to dust he suffered during his recovery work was the reason for his illness. After his death, an autopsy found particles of calcium phosphate, cellulose, talc and methacrylate plastic in his lungs. The medical examiner determined Zadroga died due to the dust he inhaled.

A Political Football

One of the events that helped spur passage of the Act was a Daily Show segment in December 2010 featuring four Ground Zero rescue workers. Stewart was only able to bring one of the workers back to the show during his December 7 appearance. Two were too sick to travel and the other one passed away due to illnesses related to their 9/11 rescue and recovery efforts.

Stewart made a passionate argument, lambasting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for blocking an extension of the Act. According to Stewart, McConnell pulled the extension out of a transportation bill passed last week because he did not receive concessions on the loosening of oil export regulations. Basically, as show host Trevor Noah put it, McConnell is using the health of 9/11 first responders as a bargaining chip in order to make it easier to sell oil abroad.

A Huge Problem

Countless 9/11 first responders were exposed to asbestos; some of them have already been diagnosed with mesothelioma due to the incredible amount of exposure they suffered. It is imperative these brave men and women receive the help they need to deal with their massive medical bills – but that will not happen unless the Zadroga Act is extended.

Baron & Budd strongly supports the extension of this vital piece of legislation, and we urge you to help “Protect What’s Right” and pressure your U.S. Senate representative to get this Act renewed. If you or a loved one is suffering from an asbestos-related disease, please complete our contact form or call 855-280-7664 to learn more about how we may be able to help.