Following 9/11, Sen. Schumer Advocates for Cancer Registry

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Public Health Watchdog Breaking News
Public Health Watchdog Breaking News

Proposed Legislation would Create Nationwide Cancer Registry for Firefighters

In the aftermath of 9/11, which saw increased cancer rates among first responders, United States Senator Charles Schumer is pushing for a bipartisan bill that would establish a nationwide cancer registry for volunteer and career firefighters. Schumer is hoping that the registry would help identify certain chemicals and fabrication materials that should be banned due to cancer risks. He said that studies have shown that many of these substances are carcinogenic, increasing the risk of major cancers such as testicular, multiple myeloma and brain cancers.

“We’re learning that our firefighters have increased risk and exposure to cancer,” said Schumer, according to The Daily Gazette. “With all the new chemicals that go into buildings, and that go into furniture, and that go into clothing, and that go into mattresses, they get in the air and these new complicated chemicals can cause cancer.”

According to The Daily Gazette, Schumer says the elevated rates of cancer among firefighters was identified in the aftermath of 9/11. Numerous responders, residents and others were exposed to hazardous chemicals when the towers fell and those who worked on the smoldering pile were exposed even more. The Zadroga Act provides medical treatment, monitoring and compensation to individuals, including firefighters, who were exposed to 9/11. But Schumer says a national database can help find general cancer trends among firefighters across the country.

The Senator promoted the bill in Schoharie, New York. He noted a higher rate of cancer among firefighters in the county, and said “This would let us see what chemicals were causing this kind of stuff, and you need a big registry”. He pointed out that the sample size in Schoharie is not large enough to have grounds for legally banning a substance. “That’s not enough of a sample to figure it out, but if you did it across the country, you could figure it out.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would administer the database and collect information anonymously from both volunteer and career firefighters. The information would then be available to cancer researchers so they could determine which chemicals are carcinogenic. The overall goal is to find out which chemicals increase the risk of cancer, and implement laws to ban them. A health plan would also be explored for firefighters in the registry if the bill became law, Schumer said.

“We might eventually be able to do what we did for the 9/11 people and get these cancers taken care of on a health plan that’s paid for for our firefighters,” said Schumer. “That’s down the road, but it all starts with this registry that’s very, very important.”

Zadroga Act Provides Benefits for Injured and Sick 9/11 Responders, Survivors

The Zadroga Act was initially signed into law in 2011, creating the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). Responders and survivors could receive medical treatment and monitoring through the health program and compensation through the VCF. In December 2015, the bill was reauthorized; this provides $3.5 billion to fund the WTC Health program for another 75 years to 2090. Over 73,000 people receive medical treatment and monitoring through the program.

Parker Waichman LLP proudly stood alongside responders, survivors and advocates to help gain passage for the Zadroga Act and its reauthorization. The firm remains dedicated to fighting for the rights of 9/11 responders and survivors.

When the towers fell, they released a massive cloud of chemicals containing toxins such as asbestos; pulverized cement; polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); benzene; dioxin; glass fibers; gypsum; jet fuel; heavy metals, including lead and other chemicals. More than 90 health conditions are related to 9/11 exposure, including over 60 types of cancer.
Many studies have shown that 9/11 responders have higher rates of medical problems, including respiratory disorders, mental health conditions and many forms of cancer. Recently, a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that symptoms of neuropathy were much more common in people exposed to 9/11. Neuropathy is nerve damage that can manifest as tingling, pain, numbness or weakness, especially in the hands and feet (peripheral neuropathy). The authors concluded that their findings support adding neuropathy as a condition covered under the Zadroga Act. “As neuropathy treatment in responders is currently not covered under the WTC program, our findings have strong policy implications and suggest that neuropathy should be added to the list of conditions covered.” they said.

Another recent study published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that lung injuries in 9/11 responders tend to be permanent. Researchers found that lung function continued to be impaired among EMS workers in the study.

Sadly, it appears that a new wave of patients are coming in for 9/11-related illnesses 15 years after the attacks. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2,500 people newly enrolled in the WTC Health Program during the 1-year period ending June 30. Including the new enrollees, 75,000 people nationwide are being treated for health problems related to 9/11. Most individuals are rescue and recovery workers, who had the greatest toxic dust exposure.

Newsday reports that health care providers have noted an influx of new patients, who generally seem to be more sick. “What seems to be so surprising is that, even though it’s been 15 years, we continue to have new enrollees into the program,” said Dr. Benjamin Luft, director of Stony Brook’s clinic, according to Newsday. “We feel that the new people who are enrolling tend to be sicker than the old enrollees.”

Legal Help for 9/11 Responders and Survivors

Parker Waichman is proud to have fought alongside Ground Zero residents, workers, first responders, and other survivors and advocates, to help ensure passage of Zadroga Act amendments. The firm vows to continue its efforts to safeguard all those who were exposed to Ground Zero’s toxic cloud and the trauma of the attacks, and ensure that all the deserved Zadroga Act compensation is received. To determine eligibility for compensation under the Act, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).