Wall Street Journal
February 15, 2012


9/11 Panel Nears Deadline

 

By SEAN GARDINER

New York City took its first steps Wednesday toward releasing some information about the 9/11 first responders who developed cancer in the decade since the terrorist attacks.

But with just over two weeks left before an advisory panel must recommend which illnesses should be covered by a federal health program, the head of the city's largest police union dismissed the move as a "belated gesture" that would not help secure aid for sickened police.

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the union representing more than 21,000 New York Police Department officers, had pushed for the city to release medical records for all of its personnel involved in the recovery effort at Ground Zero.

"We are over 10 years past the events of 9/11 and this data hasn't yet been turned over," said Patrick Lynch, the union president.

Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway said state and federal laws barred the release of medical records without permission from each individual officer. He said the city is "developing a process" to get permission.

By the time the system ready, however, police advocates fear it may be too late.

An advisory panel created by Congress by the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act will recommend by March 2 if any types of cancer and other illnesses suffered by emergency personnel should be covered by the law's health program. Representatives for police and others responders hope official medical records might sway the recommendation, which then goes before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for approval.

A review by the PBA of the union's disability records showed that about six police officers applied for cancer-related aid each year before 9/11. The union found an annual average of 16 cancer claims since then.

Samantha Levine, a city spokeswoman, said the Zadroga Act "requires ongoing review of scientific evidence," such as a peer-reviewed study commissioned by the city that found elevated cancer rates for New York Fire Department personnel at Ground Zero.

A city official said it was unclear if raw data, such as police medical records, could even be considered by the panel.

—Michael Howard Saul contributed to this report.

Write to Sean Gardiner at sean.gardiner@wsj.com