Nearly a decade after the Sept. 11 attacks, responders are finally able to receive health care for illnesses suffered while working in the ruins of the World Trade Center, unless they have cancer.
Special Master Sheila Birnbaum, who is in charge of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, will be the , on Aug. 2 to speak with potential applicants for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund to explain who is eligible and how the fund works.
Not covered under the health plan is cancer treatment.
"Insufficient evidence exists at this time to propose a rule to add cancer, or a certain type of cancer," the report, released on Tuesday, said.
Rescue workers commended Birnbaum last month for focusing on cancer and certain cancers among responders, believed to be caused by toxic debris at the WTC. Due to lack of statistical data, however, the treatments will not yet be covered.
Only one peer-reviewed article was published on the link between cancer and Sept. 11 workers in 2009 and two others were based on models to estimate the risk of cancer.
"These limitations in the exposure assessment literature make scientific analysis of a causal association between exposure and health effects, such as cancer, quite challenging," the report said.
The health plan, also known as the Zadroga Act, named after a police detective who died at age 34 after working at ground zero, was created to aid those who became ill after their clean up efforts. It ensures that those affected by 9/11 continue to receive monitoring and treatment services for 9/11-related health problems through at least 2015.
While the act does not currently cover cancer treatment, it does leave the door open to do so in the future. The legislation includes a provision for the WTC Health Program to add treatment for emerging conditions, such as cancer, based on any new findings. The legislation also provides significant funding for WTC health research.
The next review will be conducted in early to mid-2012.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, (D-NY), who co-sponsored the bill, called the report "premature."
"So many people have gotten such rare cancers - and at young ages - that it seems obvious there must be a link," he said in a statement to the Associated Press.
Illnesses that will be covered under the act include chronic cough, asthma, sinusitis and gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), mental health problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression and other health problems, such as lower back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome and other conditions which research suggests may be related to WTC exposure.
Birnbaum will focus on the details of the plan next Tuesday.
“At these town halls, I hope to talk with you about the Fund and the proposed rules as well as answer any questions you may have,” she said.
The meeting will take place Aug. 2 from 6 - 7:30 p.m. at the , 1350 Old Walt Whitman Road.