9/11 Cancer: Federal Government Recognizes Link

By Amir Khan on September 10, 2012 3:30 PM EDT

9/11
An aerial photo of Ground Zero shortly after the 9/11 attacks (Photo: Creative Commons)

9/11 first responders who developed cancer after exposure to the Ground Zero rubble may be getting some help from the government. Federal officials are expected to acknowledge a link between the conditions at Ground Zero and several different forms of cancer, enabling more people to qualify for financial help.

"Adding cancer to the bill after three years, we're ahead of the curve," John Feal, a first responder advocate, told New York's 1010Wins. "Normally cancer studies take 10, 15, 20, 30 years."

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The money is available through the Zadroga Act, named after NYPD detective James Zadroga, who died at age 34 after working at Ground Zero. However, until now, cancer was not covered.

"We are getting sick in record numbers," Ray Pfeiffer, a first responder who was diagnosed three years ago with kidney cancer, told NBC News "It's fantastic news."

The move, spearheaded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, means certain cancers will be covered under the Zadroga Act and makes first responders eligible for compensation. The institute has set aside $2.8 billion for victims, and Feal said people with can start collecting as soon as the ruling is official.

"The blood cancers, the myelomas, the leukemias, the Non-Hodgkins, and the organs that act as filters in the digestive system in the body [are all covered]," Feal told CBS News. "This is a milestone. This is a victory."

However, Feal said the ruling is just the beginning.

"We have to go back to Congress in the Fall and ask them to keep the bill open for more than five years," he said. "We want a 20-year bill. Hypothetically, if somebody gets compensated in year three for their cancer, what happens to a different person who gets the same cancer in year nine and they don't? It's unjust, and we have to continue to work together as a unified group of people who are sick and dying."

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