Ruling to Allow 9/11 Health Fund to Cover Cancers
A federal health official’s ruling has cleared the way for 50 different types of cancer to be added to the list of sicknesses covered by a $4.3 billion fund set up to compensate and treat people exposed to the toxic smoke, dust and fumes in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack.
The decision, released on Friday afternoon, came as a vindication for hundreds and perhaps thousands of people who have claimed — often in the face of resistance from public health officials — that their cancers were caused by their exposure to the dust cloud and debris thrown up in the aftermath of the attack.
It will allow not only rescue workers but also volunteers, residents, schoolchildren and passers-by to apply for money to pay for compensation and treatment for cancers developed in the aftermath of the attack. The cancers will not officially be added to the list until after a period of public comment lasting several months.
The decision, by Dr. John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, comes despite a lack of epidemiological evidence linking the attack to cancer. It also poses a number of logistical challenges, since it will be difficult if not impossible to separate people who developed cancer as a result of ground zero from those who would have gotten the disease anyway, and because many cancer diagnoses are likely to be made years after the fund is exhausted.
But in a lengthy report defending his decision, Dr. Howard said that a New York Fire Department study published last fall in the British journal The Lancet, which showed that firefighters exposed to ground zero toxic substances had a 19 percent higher rate of cancer than firefighters who were not exposed, had provided a strong foundation for a conclusion that some cancers had been caused by exposure to the World Trade Center debris.