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NIOSH program proposes covering 9/11 cancers

June 28, 2012
Photos: September Mourning
Eleven months ago, I called it a tragedy that NIOSH’s World Trade Center Health Program was not covering 9/11 first responders’ cancers. Now I’m glad to report things may be changing.

A proposed rule from NIOSH would add at least 23 different cancers to a list of WTC-related health conditions. Treatment for these illnesses would become available through the NIOSH program for eligible firefighters; law enforcement officers; and rescue, recovery and cleanup workers who responded to the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Some health experts have expressed concerns about the proposal, claiming strong scientific evidence linking the dust plumes to certain types of cancers is lacking.

I would think that anyone who saw the clouds of dust that filled the streets of New York that dreadful day would disagree – it wasn’t sugar raining down, but toxic dust sprinkled with asbestos and any number of substances from decades-old buildings.

Moreover, the NIOSH proposal is based on recommendations from the WTC Health Program’s Scientific/Technical Advisory Committee. The committee is made up of occupational physicians as well as other experts, including a toxicologist and an epidemiologist. In short, these are people who know the ins and outs of the situation.

However, I welcome a debate on the merits of including the cancers to the list of treatable diseases from which 9/11 first responders suffer – so long as it’s a debate on the science and not the politics, the latter of which often boils down to partisan bickering and money.

Comments on the proposed rule are due July 13.


The opinions expressed in "Washington Wire" do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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