Lawmakers and advocates are outraged that September 11th first responders with cancer will still not receive health care benefits from the Zadroga health care bill, since a new medical study found insufficient links between toxins released at the World Trade Center site and documented cancer cases.
Cancer cases have never been covered under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which passed Congress in December and was signed into law by President Barack Obama in January.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which produced the latest study, wrote that while the debris in Lower Manhattan contained known human carcinogens, scientific and medical studies found that first responders did not have dangerous levels of exposure to those substances.
Researchers' models also determined that Lower Manhattan residents do not have a significantly higher risk of cancer, according to the institute.
The NIOSH has promised to do another study on cancer cases by the middle of 2012, but Senator Kirsten Gillibrand wrote a letter to Dr. John Howard, NIOSH's director, to ask that the new study be done sooner.
Senator Charles Schumer and Representatives Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler and Peter King, who all supported the bill, also expressed their disappointment in the new report.
"We believe this report is premature and that the framework established by the Zadroga bill will demonstrate that those who were exposed to the witches’ brew of toxins at Ground Zero have developed serious illnesses, including cancer, and deserve justice," Schumer said in a statement.
It is unknown how many people would have applied for money under the Zadroga bill for cancer treatment, but many first responders who worked in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks were diagnosed with cancer years later.
First responder Jeffrey Stroehline in his hospital bed.
"We expect 10,000 applications for the [September 11th] Victims Compensation Fund through the newly-created Zadroga Act, and that's for victim's compensation and also the first portion, which is health care," said Matthew McCauley, an attorney for September 11th victims.
One such patient is Jeffrey Stroehline, a 47-year-old former first responder who worked at the World Trade Center site, who is currently being treated in Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center for central nervous system lymphoma.
He was diagnosed in March and is undergoing a bone marrow transplant on Wednesday.
"We both can't believe it. We both have health insurance, we both worked all our lives, we have three kids, but our lives have been turned upside down," Margaret Stroehline, Jeffrey's wife. "We have insurance, but there's loads of co-pays for the hospital, doctors, medicine, and it's overwhelming."
The Stroehlines hope that a new cancer study can come soon.
"My hope was that this would come for us, not only for us, but for all these people that are getting sick now. There's a whole new wave of first responders that are getting sick," said Margaret Stroehline. "People all say, '10 years, it's over,' whatever, but it's kind of starting for a lot of us."
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly also said the connection between cancer and September 11th toxins is obvious, and the decision to exclude cancer patients is wrong.
"They are young, healthy people. They spent an inordinate amount of time exposed to toxic materials on Ground Zero or the landfill in Staten Island," said Kelly. "They come up with diseases, some of them exotic diseases. It just really is common sense."
The FealGood Foundation, which advocates for first responders, said in a statement it would contribute to the efforts to have cancer treatment covered by the Zadroga bill.
To read the NIOSH report, visit www.CDC.gov.