As people unite across the country to remember one of our nation’s greatest tragedies, those victims still struggling from the aftermath gain some reprieve. On Monday, federal health authorities added 58 types of cancer to the list of illnesses covered for victims who were exposed to toxins at the site of the September 11 attacks. Among the new diseases recognized by the World Trade Center Health Program is Mesothelioma, a cancer found in the lining of the lungs and caused by exposure to asbestos fibers.
The amendment comes after Dr. John Howard, administrator of the World Trade Center Health Program, proposed a recommendation that the program add the types of cancer to the list of diseases covered. The advisory committee reviewed Dr. Howard’s recommendation and agreed that coverage will expand to the new list of cancers “resulting from exposure to toxins released at Ground Zero.”
According to Dr. Howard’s statement released Monday, the rule will be published Wednesday in the Federal Register, and will become effective 30 days after publication. Survivors, rescue workers and volunteers who suffer from these cancers, such as mesothelioma, will be eligible for coverage. An estimated 950 to 2,150 people would be able to take advantage of the additional coverage, according to the adopted rule.
Experts acknowledge that certain cancers, like mesothelioma, may not appear for decades after exposure. Even so, the Senate reduced the original 30-year compensation program to only five years.
Passed in 2010, the Zadroga act was named after a New York police officer who passed away from a respiratory disease that was caused from exposure to toxins while working at Ground Zero. The $4.2 billion legislation was signed by President Barack Obama in December 2010 and was created to provide compensation and cover medical services for people similar to Officer Zadroga who were exposed to toxins while working at the attack site.
The addition to the Zadroga act i contrasts from Dr. Howard’s statement in July, when he said that cancer treatments would not be covered by the compensation fund due to inadequate findings linking exposure that occurred on September 11th to cancer.
Advocates for mesothelioma have pushed congress to incorporate the asbestos-related disease, as well as others caused by the carcinogenic fibers, since the act was signed into law.
The announcement comes just as leaders in the mesothelioma community gather to attend the 11th International Conference of the International Mesothelioma Interest Group in Boston, Mass. The conference begins today, September 11th, and will feature workshops, debates, and breakout sessions surrounding the issues most important to those affected by the asbestos-related disease.
Over the past 35 years, Baron and Budd has worked closely with mesothelioma advocates and shares in their joy over this bittersweet victory on this day of remembrance. The firm continues to fight for what is best for asbestos victims, and hopes that the survivors of September 11th may take some small solace on this day.