Chief-Leader
October 19, 2015 5:30 pm

 

Editorial: Adding to ‘Zadroga’ Case

By RICHARD STEIER

The fecklessness of Congress in allowing the Zadroga Act to expire earlier this month was underscored last week by a medical study showing that the rate of cancer has risen roughly 50 percent among NYPD officers since 9/11, with all 668 of the officers diagnosed with some form of the disease having served at one of the sites dealing with the fallout from the terrorist attacks.

The increases were even greater for four specific cancers: those affecting the brain and kidneys more than tripled; thyroid cancer cases more than doubled, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma occurred 68 percent more often.

This study, conducted by NYPD Chief Surgeon Dr. Eli Kleinman in conjunction with scientists at Columbia University Medical Center and Weill Cornell Medical College, focused on the nearly-40,000 cops who were working for the department on 9/11 and compared the diagnoses for a 20-year period covering 1995 through 2014. While the increase was less-drastic than Dr. Kleinman originally feared it might be, it provided further proof of the correlation between cancer and service at the Trade Center on the day of the attacks and work in the weeks and months following it at the site or other locations to which dead bodies, remains and debris were transported, bringing with them the toxins that contaminated the area.

The failure to extend the Zadroga Act providing paid medical coverage to the tens of thousands who were sickened by exposure does not have an immediate catastrophic impact, either financially or health-wise. Enough money remains for both the World Trade Center Health Program and the Victim Compensation Fund to cover treatment for the next year.

But without a revival of the act in the near future, victims—many of them first-responders—will reach a point when they will either have to exhaust their savings to continue treatment or be forced to do without treatment and/or medications that are literally life-sustaining. There is simply no justification for allowing it to come to this.

A bipartisan trio of New York members of the House of Representatives, Republican Peter King and Demo­crats Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler, have spearheaded the drive for an extension, if not permanent status, for the Zadroga Act. As they noted when the extension bill got bogged down in committee as the deadline passed, “These men and woman won’t suddenly stop being sick when the programs expire. The costs of their medication or of the time off from work won’t suddenly stop because Congress failed to act.”

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 were aimed at the entire nation, not just a small area of New York City. Taking care of those who survived but whose health has deteriorated due to their labors at the time should be viewed as a national responsibility. Those who fail to ensure that the aid that’s needed is paid for will surrender the right to call themselves patriotic Americans.