Fred Mogul, Reporter, WNYC News
Fred Mogul has been covering healthcare and medicine for WNYC since 2002.
Under pressure from the police union, elected officials and health researchers, the NYPD is releasing the names of officers who served at Ground Zero to Mt. Sinai Medical Center. The decision comes as a panel considers adding cancer to the list of diseases covered for emergency responders who worked at the 9/11 site.
The union, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, estimates that cancer rates are much higher among officers who helped in rescue and cleanup operations, but the PBA wants Mt. Sinai to analyze the data.
The NYPD, has resisted handing over the information, citing privacy concerns and saying the cancer data should be analyzed before being released. The NYPD on Wednesday said it will contact officers, before releasing their health records to Mt. Sinai.
Dr. Philip Landrigan, who has led the hospital’s monitoring and treatment program over the last decade, said the new data will aid research.
“That information will help us to further elucidate patterns of cancer in police officers and other responders to September 11,” Landrigan said.
A panel of scientists and advocates gathered in Lower Manhattan to look at the latest research on environmental exposures at the World Trade Center site following the 9/11 attacks.
The committee will try to determine whether the dust and smoke that engulfed the area caused — or contributed to — cancer among emergency responders, Ground Zero workers and local residents. Panelists will issue an advisory opinion in the coming months. Then, it will be up to top officials at the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to decide whether or not to add cancer to a list of 9/11-related illnesses.
At stake is whether people with cancer will be eligible for health coverage through the James Zadroga Law.
In order to pass the law, Senate Democrats had to leave cancer off the list. But lawmakers left open the possibility of including it in the future, as more research emerged.
Evidence of a cancer link continues to be mixed, the panel heard. There is much missing information; some wasn’t gathered, originally, or hasn’t been released, and some is likely to take years to emerge.
But one asbestos expert testified that even brief exposures can cause long-term lung damage. He showed tissue from the lungs of a firefighter who spent two weeks at Ground Zero, and said the lungs had ten times more fiber than a normal person, and about half as much as someone who spent years installing asbestos insulation.
Dr. Virginia Weaver, an occupational and environmental medicine expert from Johns Hopkins University, said, "Exposures are probably higher than any of the monitoring data we have shows."