Feds to Rule on Cancer Aid for WTC Dust Exposure

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A federal health official is expected to announce soon whether people with cancer will be covered by an aid program for anyone sickened by World Trade Center dust.

An advisory committee recommended in March that the government open up the $4.3 billion program to people who developed cancers after being exposed to the toxic soot that fell on Manhattan when the towers collapsed.

The director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is scheduled to make a determination by Saturday. His decision might not be announced until Monday.

The organization examined 18 studies, five of which were peer reviewed, and found, “insufficient evidence exists at this time to propose a rule to add cancer, or a certain type of cancer, to the List of WTC-Related Health Conditions.”

Adding cancer to the program would be cheered by many former ground zero workers.

But it could also prove costly and lead to smaller payments for people with other illnesses more closely linked to fallout from the 9/11 attacks.

In February, a panel charged with reviewing possible connections between World Trade Center dust and cancer met to consider whether the disease should be covered under the James Zadroga 9/11 fund, as WNYC reported:

When the James Zadroga 9/11 World Trade Center Health and Compensation Law passed in late 2010, it stated that only specific groups of people are eligible for help — mainly rescue, recovery and cleanup workers and those who worked and lived and worked in a specific geographic area within Lower Manhattan.

The law further limited that group of people to those with specific illnesses, including a number of respiratory, digestive and muscular conditions.

Cancer, however, was not on the list.

WNYC spoke with Kirk Arsenault, 47, a top-rate demolisher hired to remove debris at Ground Zero after the September 11, 2001, attacks shortly after the World Trade Center Health Registry said it found no link between exposure and cancer last year

Arsenault said he now  takes 27 types of medication to treat a host of ailments – including thyroid and lymph node cancer – and has crippling medical debt.

“Out of all the friends I worked with at Ground Zero, a good portion of them have different types of cancers, whereas my friends who didn’t work at Ground Zero, don’t have the cancers. I don’t see how hard it is for them to make the connection to it,” he said.