Mayor Bloomberg and Senators Schumer and Gillibrand are among the officials applauding the federal government's Monday decision to add dozens of cancers to the list of World Trade Center-related diseases covered by the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.
This means potentially thousands of survivors, rescue and recovery workers will receive financial relief for medical costs associated with treatment for their cancers and their families will be eligible for compensation.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) added up to 50 types of cancers to the list Monday, as a result of scientific evidence linking the illnesses to the September 11th terrorist attacks.
Advocates say the illnesses fall under the umbrella of respiratory and blood cancers.
Former New York City Police Department Sergeant Thomas Wilson is one of the first responders who contracted cancer. He worked at the World Trade Center Site just about every day for two months.
"It’s great. It gives cancer victims a piece of mind the ones that are alive," said Wilson.
He also sorted debris at Fresh Kills Landfill, using a rake or picking through a conveyer belt.
"It was so surreal, especially that conveyer belt. When I see a conveyer belt like that today, it's tough," Wilson said.
When doctors diagnosed Wilson with cancer four years ago, it was not covered by the $4.3 billion World Trade Center health program created under the Zadroga Act, as no cancers were covered.
For those who are still struggling, Wilson said, "You’ve just got to stay strong and fight it, especially after you get through the radiation. Radiation is especially tough, especially for the head and neck cancers. You've just got to fight it."
So far, 63,182 responders and survivors have registered for medical monitoring and treatment.
The federal government expects the cancer rate among that group to reach 21 percent above the national average.
With cancer covered, more people will dip into the same pool of money, so payments to individuals could be lower.
Lawmakers had said if cancer was eventually covered, they would ask the federal government for more funding.
Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand say in a joint statement, "Today’s announcement is a huge step forward that will provide justice and support to so many who are now suffering from cancer and other illnesses."
Representative Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler and Peter King, who sponsored the Zadroga Act in the House of Representatives, say in a joint statement, "[T]oday's announcement is great news for the responders, survivors and their families, who have long known and lived with the reality that 9/11 dust and toxins cause cancer.... We look forward to continuing to work closely with Dr. Howard as he and his team finalize the cancer coverage certification process to accomplish this goal.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg says in part in a statement, “As part of our ongoing commitment to our first responders, New York City led the way in ensuring that the Zadroga Act included reviews of the medical evidence so that all those ill from exposure to the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks receive the care they need.... Dr. Howard’s decision, made after thorough consideration of the latest available research and data, will continue to ensure that those who have become ill due to the heinous attacks on 9/11 get the medical care they need and deserve.”
Tuesday marks 11 years since the World Trade Center was destroyed in a terrorist attack.