In days surrounding the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the federal government is expected to add 50 types of cancer to the list of World Trade Center-related diseases covered by the Zadroga Health and Compensation Act. This will come as good news to those first responders suffering from cancer-related illness, and even those close to passing, in that their pain will be properly cared for and eased.
As I wrote in my article 9/11 first responder death toll nears 1,000 on April 7, 2011, the death toll of first responders was nearing 1,000. Local politicians were demanding that autopsy standards be developed to pinpoint the causes. The number of Ground Zero first responders’ deaths had risen past 916 to date then, yet oddly no one knew what really killed them.
Now, after years of struggling to enact the $4.2 billion Zagroda bill, the legislation has been reopened by the federal Victim Compensation Fund to provide economic relief to those harmed by the attacks by cancer as well. The caveat now is will the bill receive additional monies to cover those with cancers, or will everyone else covered, including cancer victims, receive smaller benefits.
Attorney Michael Barasch, who along with Noah Kushelefsky is handling thousands of first responders and residents’ cases, told NY-1 “That the National institute for Occupational Safety and Health is set to formerly announce [this week] that “50 types of cancer will be covered under the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.”
Cancer was not covered by the $4.3 billion World Trade Center health program created under the original Act. September 11th “health czar” Dr. John Howard said at the time there was not enough evidence linking cancer to the toxic smoke from the World Trade center.
Dr. Howard did say at the time there wasn’t enough evidence linking cancer to the toxic smoke from the WTC. Advocates, including this writer, say the change is long overdue.
Here are some suggestions I made then, regarding the poisons those responders who died carried in them, and those that survived may be carrying with them now. They were based on the excellent film documentary, Dust To Dust—The health effects of 9/11, made by Heidi Dehncke-Fisher, a film I reviewed in 911’s second round of slaughter.
During the opening sequences, Dehncke-Fisher supers on screen a list of some of the 2,500 deadly contaminants that erupted from the explosion of the World Trade Center Towers, that is, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, plus two fuel-laden jetliners that all turned into a toxic gray dust that hung in the air, as well as settled in people’s lungs, on area streets, vehicles, buildings, residences, both outside and inside the city for months:
Over 400 tons of asbestos, which once inhaled in any quantity cannot be expelled by the lungs.
90,000 liters of jet fuel containing benzene, a carcinogen that suppresses the immune system and causes leukemia.
Mercury from over 500,000 fluorescent lights, toxic to the nervous system and especially damaging to the kidneys.
200,000 pounds of lead and cadmium from personal computers—toxic to the respiratory track, especially damaging to kidneys.
Polycystic aromatic hydrocarbons—causing lung, laryngeal and throat cancers.
130,000 gallons of transformer oil with PCBs—causing serious skin rashes and liver damage.
Crystalline Silica from 420,000 tons of concrete, sheetrock, and glass: tiny particulates that lodge in the heart, causing ischemic heart disease.
Most recently, you can add to that list, thermite, thermate and nanothermite, which chemist Kevin Ryan discovered both at Ground Zero and in the tissue of many first responders. I reported his findings in Chemist Kevin Ryan cites energetic materials as potential cause of 9/11 First Responders’ Illnesses.
Is it not surprising to anyone that the above witch’s brew could trigger nearly 1,000 deaths? Look at the list of illnesses and organs they affect: the lungs, the immune system, the respiratory track, the kidneys, laryngeal and throat areas, the skin, the heart, most all of the vital organs.
It didn’t help either that then-Mayor Giuliani rushed the Ground Zero crews to work around the clock with only paper masks, not real respirators. In fact, there was no encouragement to use either, and the first responders often worked without either. Despite the fact that Giuliani had two and a half years to get this project done, it was completed in eight months, and at what cost: to destroy the most important crime scene in the greatest crime committed against the US on its soil in history; and to help sicken thousands of first responders and kill a thousand or more soon.
Add to that, Christine Todd Whitman, as Dust to Dust points out, the EPA administrator at the time, constantly told New York and the world there was “no reason for the general public to be concerned.” Perhaps now, she realizes there was a great deal of reason to be concerned. Of course, warnings had come from Dr. Stephen Levin, head of the Mont Sinai Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine. He had told of how he and his colleagues could see early on that these people were being exposed to cancer-causing materials that would end in disaster, even as Whitman reassured everyone that we were “Not getting elevated levels causing concern.”
In fact, by September 13, 2001, the inadequate ambient air samples led the EPA to claim the air was “Below levels of concern.” Yet, many contaminants had simply not been tested for. The EPA ombudsman, said, “You can’t find what you don’t look for.” So bad marks must be given to the EPA, old news as we approach the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and living survivors are battling for their lives as 916 of them have lost that battle.
Also, Michael Brown, who was deputy director of FEMA at the time, consistently told New York and the world there was “No reason for the general public to be concerned.” Of course, former President Bush, V.P. Dick Cheney, and Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared without facemasks to make sure no one asked for one or to use. Talk about role models. Former President Bush’s head of the White House Environmental Council, James Connaugton, previously represented large corporations like ARCO in disputes about cleaning up toxic waste sites. Adding insult to injury, he had formerly worked against the EPA, such as it was.
But as early as September 14, 2001,, the EPA started reading out “samples [that] showed levels of asbestos ranging from 2.1% to 3.3% . . .” (The EPA conceded back then that a 1 percent level could be defined as an asbestos-contaminating material.) The difference between 1 percent and 3.3 percent was serious enough, as time has shown, to hurt or kill people, especially given repeated exposure. So any numbers games here were criminal. In contrast, the first responders working at the Pentagon site in Washington, D.C., had to wear respirators to go to work at the disaster site, absolutely, no questions asked. But in NYC, we had to get Wall Street working again, so the money not lives came first.
Returning to Dr. Howard, he now is saying, “A lot of these people aren’t going to live to see any money from this at all. But hopefully at least they’ll get some treatment which will alleviate some of their symptoms and might even save some of them.” Said Barasch, “For a lot of these people though this is a victory that only their families will be the benefit of . . .” So be it.
In addition, affected recovery workers and some city residents from the area surrounding the WTC are eligible for free health treatment. Again, unless additional funds are allotted, all payments to individuals will be lower. Fortunately, and if we can believe it, lawmakers have said that if cancer was discovered they planned to ask the federal government for more money. Kudos go to Senator Kirsten Gellibrand, who has done a noble job leading the fight for additional monies. Let’s hope the stalled Congress remembers its ailing and lost heroes this time. Unfortunately, Paul Ryan voted against any more monies for the first responders. So much for his respect for patriots.
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer and life-long resident of New York City. An EBook version of his book of poems “State Of Shock,” on 9/11 and its after effects is now available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He has also written hundreds of articles on politics and government as Associate Editor of Intrepid Report (formerly Online Journal). Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.