New York Daily News

May 19, 2010


New York City cops slam President Obama, administration over delay of 9/11 cancer study

  Police officers are sensitive to cancer issue as numbers of responders dying increases.

BY Michael Mcauliff

WASHINGTON - New York cops blasted the Obama administration Tuesday after learning bean counters were holding up money for a key 9/11 cancer study.

The funding was expected to come along with cash for the ongoing World Trade Center treatment programs, but was not released last week, and neither was money to survey the health of thousands of responders around the nation.

Police officers are especially sensitive to the cancer issue, with growing numbers of responders dying from the disease, including an officer who passed away Saturday.

"We are about to bury Robert Oswain, a 42-year-old police officer who responded to the WTC site and did his duty without question only to die of cancer normally found in elderly people," said city Patrolmen's Benevolent Association boss Patrick Lynch.

The problem, Lynch noted, is that even though cops and their families are sure unusual cancers stem from exposure to the toxic ruins of the twin towers, there isn't definitive scientific proof.

"It is imperative that the federal government provide adequate funding," said Lynch. "Failure to do so would be an insult to every responder who was sickened or will become sick."

The Daily News reported the holdup after obtaining a letter from Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens) and Jerry Nadler (D-Manhattan) to Peter Orszag, head of the White House's Office of Management and Budget, sounding the alarm.

Yesterday afternoon, White House spokesman Bill Burton suggested officials may find a way to let the money go, after all, but made no promises.

"We are working with the members of Congress and the mayor's office, and we are confident we will come to a satisfactory resolution," said Burton, though he did not elaborate on what the problems are.

Maloney also sounded more upbeat, saying she was "confident that we can resolve this issue quickly."

But some officers couldn't understand why there is an issue at all. "It shouldn't even be considered - it should be just hands- down let's do it," said retired officer Anthony Flammia, 47. "You got guys dying day by day. We want to know what type of cancers to look out for; we want to know what's coming. I don't know if I'm going to have cancer five years from now.

"It really shook me when my friend got cancer," he said.

The monitoring is already underway, and losing funding would deep-six chances of finishing the research, leaving unresolved the question of how cancers may be emerging 10 years after the devastation, researchers warned the feds in another letter this month.

At issue is some $1.3 million for the cancer work, plus a shortfall of $1.5 million for a third wave of evaluations meant to be finished around the 10-year mark. Federal health officials had agreed to that funding last year, but OMB is balking.

City officials also are concerned the feds are going back on a deal to spend about $3.5million for mental health counseling.