- The NIOSH recommendation represents an about-face
- The initial House bill extended for 30 years, but the Senate cut it to five
- Some cancers may not arise for decades after exposure, experts say
Federal health authorities Friday recommended that 50 types of cancer be added to the list of covered illnesses for people who were exposed to toxins at the site of the World Trade Center in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.
The proposal, issued by Dr. John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, asks that the World Trade Center Health Program accept the recommendations of its Science/Technical Advisory Committee.
The STAC review called for expanded "coverage for certain types of cancer resulting from exposure to toxins released at Ground Zero."
Howard's proposal is subject to public review and comment for 30 days, beginning Monday, before it is implemented.
"We recognize how personal the issue of cancer and all of the health conditions related to the World Trade Center tragedy are to 9/11 responders, survivors and their loved ones," Howard said in a statement.
The proposal "helps pave the way for expanding the scope of available medical care and compensation for those sickened by the toxins at Ground Zero," New York Reps. Carolyn B. Maloney, Jerrold Nadler and Peter T. King, said in a joint statement. "As we have all seen with our own eyes again and again, cancer incidence among responders and survivors is a tragic fact, and we must continue to do everything we can to provide the help that those who are sick need and deserve."
First responders, volunteers, survivors of the attacks and residents who meet specific qualifications will be eligible for coverage, according to the World Trade Center Health Program.
According to the proposed rule, an estimated 950 to 2,150 people would take advantage of the additional coverage.
The estimated cost for the total cancer treatment ranges between $14.5 million and $33 million, the proposal said.
The original bill as passed by the House had a 30-year compensation program, but the Senate reduced it to five years.
Many cancers may not appear for decades after an exposure, according to experts.
The World Trade Center Health Program was created as a result of the passage of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which Maloney, Nadler and King sponsored.
The Zadroga Act, passed by Congress in December 2010, is designed to provide medical services and compensation for responders who were exposed to toxins while working at ground zero. President Barack Obama signed the $4.2 billion legislation in January. The law is named after a New York police officer who died of a respiratory disease attributed to working amid the toxic chemicals at the attack site.
The move is an about-face from Howard's announcement in July 2011, when he stated that cancer treatments would not be covered by the compensation fund.
At the time, Howard said there was inadequate "published scientific and medical findings" to link September 11 exposures to cancer.