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First responders continue to fight for cancer compensation

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First responders continue to fight for cancer compensation

I haven’t written much about the connection between the 9/11 attacks and an alarming rate of multiple myeloma cases among first responders at Ground Zero.

Up to this point, litigators have refused to acknowledge a connection between the World Trade Center (WTC) site and certain cancers–including multiple myeloma.  That is, until now.

Here is an update from Sunday’s New York Daily News about the ongoing battle for compensation by first responders:

WTC cancer ruling must be based on hard science

Decision must be limited to ailments clearly linked to Ground Zero

A government advisory committee is nearing a recommendation on whether cancer-stricken 9/11 rescue and recovery workers should be entitled to apply for compensation. The best course remains to proceed based on solid science.

There is mounting evidence of a connection between exposure to Ground Zero’s toxic air and some types of cancer. The World Trade Center Health Program Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee cites six with the strongest links: stomach, colorectal, melanoma, thyroid, non-Hodgkins lymphoma and multiple myeloma.

Those findings are based on cancer rates among people who labored on The Pile. The committee also reports that substances released into the air when the Trade Center collapsed are known to cause cancer but does not offer evidence that the chemicals did so at the WTC site.

The draft recommendation gives WTC health program chief, Dr. John Howard,  two options:

One, consider all cancers that crop up in Ground Zero responders to be Trade Center-related. Two, consider only a list of cancers numbering in the dozens.

The panel and Howard should limit the decision to what is, at this point, medically and scientifically defensible.

Frustrating as it is to 9/11 workers who are battling cancer, and to their families, it remains premature to say that all cancers should be presumed to have been caused by WTC exposure. The presence of toxic chemicals is simply not enough to demonstrate cause and effect.

The federal compensation fund is limited. At $2.8 billion, it is open to tens of thousands of people who are being treated for 9/11-related sicknesses other than cancer. Adding thousands of cancer sufferers would deplete the funding, forcing advocates to petition an already hostile Congress for more money.

Doing so without hard evidence of higher-than-normal rates of cancers among responders would undermine the program’s credibility, with potentially severe repercussions.

As yet, only two studies — one by the Fire Department, the other by Mount Sinai Medical Center’s World Trade Center Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program — have found elevated cancer risks.

Two more research papers are expected out in the next month or two. One, dealing with people who’ve signed up for the city Health Department’s World Trade Center Registry, is to be published in the British medical journal the Lancet. The other, by Mount Sinai researchers, will be disseminated through the National Cancer Institute.

Because the advisory panel was mandated by statute to submit recommendations by this week, its findings are unavoidably preliminary in nature. It will be up to Howard to determine scientific validity, likely focusing on those cancers with the strongest emerging evidence of links between service and sickness.

This is a very emotional issue.  Everything that I have read points to crazy high rates of cancers popping-up among otherwise young, healthy first responders who spent a lot of time there early-on.  Multiple myeloma seems to be at the top of the list.

Coincidence?  Seems some of the officials that are holding the purse strings think so.

Just pay the people already!   Who cares if a cause and effect can be proven or not.  How does this really “undermine the program’s credibility?”  Really?

What a twisted, interesting world we live in!  Sometimes all you can do is shake your head and laugh…

Feel good and keep smiling!  Pat