The Chief
May 1, 2009

PBA Says 9/11 Health Bill Might Exclude Some Cops

Too High a Burden of Proof?

By ARI PAUL

PATRICK LYNCH: Bill's language 'evades responsibility.'
PATRICK LYNCH: Bill's language 'evades responsibility.'

The head of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association has come out against the current language of a bill that would secure permanent funding for 9/11-responder health treatment and monitoring, saying that it sets standards that would make it difficult for his members to get medical care.

PBA President Patrick J. Lynch in a statement April 21 said that the language of the James Zadroga Act would set a burden of proof for World Trade Center responders with cancer so difficult to meet that it could keep them from getting health-care treatment, while the bill had specific language for treatment of less-dire ailments such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

'Cops May Be Denied Coverage'

"It is entirely likely that healthy members of the NYPD who became ill and have since died of cancers and blood disorders contracted from working at the WTC site would have been excluded from coverage under this Federal bill," Mr. Lynch said.

The PBA leader continued, "It appears that this bill has been devised to funnel funds to medical issues having a remote relationship to the WTC while literally ignoring those who put their lives on the line by physically working at the various WTC locations during the response, clean-up and recovery. This bill as presently written is an effort to evade responsibility for the most serious medical consequences of 9/11 and is an insult to all WTC responders."

The bill, named for a Detective who died as a result of cancer many people believed he developed due to breathing in toxins while working at Ground Zero, would make permanent the Federal funding of 9/11 health monitoring and treatment for responders, residents and students. Programs currently offering these services are operating as a result of annual appropriations funding.

EMS Union Also Has Qualms

The PBA previously joined other uniformed and skilled trades unions in supporting the bill and is the second to voice concerns over its language. Local 3621 of District Council 37, which represents Emergency Medical Service officers, objects to a clause that would require Fire Department responders to enroll in an employer-based monitoring and treatment program.

Jacqueline Moline, the director of the WTC Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program, Clinical Center at Mount Sinai Medical Center, testified at a House of Representatives committee hearing in favor of the bill the next day, highlighting cancer as a major reason for sustained funding.

"Longer-term conditions we might see could include cancers, auto-immune disorders, and pulmonary fibrosis," Dr. Moline said in written testimony. "The future health outlook for responders still remains uncertain. The long-term consequences of such unique exposures are not yet fully known. Because physicians and scientists have never before studied an unprecedented mixture of toxicants like this— which resulted from the attack and collapse of the most computerized office tower complex in the world, with vast numbers of compounds and potentially toxic agents inside released at Ground Zero—it will take decades to determine any collective tally of exactly what the health effects might be."