Treatment support ratified for Twin Towers’ cancer victims

The US federal government has added 50 types of cancer to the list of ailments eligible for treatment and compensation covered by a programme of support for people who suffered ill health as a result of the World Trade Centre attacks.

The decision allows thousands of emergency-service personnel, construction workers and cleaners who responded to the terrorist attacks in New York 11 years ago to seek free medical treatment for their illnesses.

The World Trade Centre (WTC) Health Programme was established under the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which entered on to the statute books last year. Administered by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the programme originally covered certain illnesses linked to exposure to toxic fumes, but no cancers.

Cancers to be covered include stomach, liver, mesothelioma, melanoma and non-melanoma, kidney, leukaemia and childhood cancers.

The final ruling document, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, confirmed: “The effect of this amendment is that, for the types of cancers added, an enrolled WTC responder, certified-eligible survivor, or screening-eligible survivor may seek certification of a physician’s determination that the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were substantially likely to be a significant factor in aggravating, contributing to, or causing the individual’s cancer.”

It was noted that because cancer takes so long to develop, it is too early to have conclusive proof of a link between the attacks and cancer. However, advocates of recognising cancer as a 9/11 illness argued that it would be unfair to people who were sick to wait 20 or 30 years for such proof.