The government may have inadvertently created a mess for itself. In what was originally an altruistic effort to assist victims of the 9/11 attacks, the government has been promising repayment for individuals on the scene that day who now have cancer.
Experts are coming forward, however, and saying there is no substantial evidence to support that 9/11 survivors are getting cancer as a result from that day.
After the towers came down, the streets were filled with dust and debris, which caused many workers, first responders, and other pedestrians by to later suffer from medical problems — particularly respiratory issues. Despite that, the World Trade Center health fund, created to assist 9/11 victims with their medical bills, appears to be covering most of the top types of cancer, such as breast and skin cancer.
The NY Daily News reports that scientists say there is little research to prove that exposure to the toxic dust plume caused even one kind of cancer. “And many acknowledge the payouts to cancer patients could take money away from those suffering from illnesses more definitively linked to Sept. 11, like asthma and some types of lung disease.”
Donald Berry, a biostatistics professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, told the associated press, “To imagine that there is strong evidence about any cancer resulting from 9/11 is naive in the extreme.”
This comes after Dr. John Howard, head of National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, “added scores of common and rare cancers to a list that had previously included just 12 ailments caused by dust exposure.”
The NY Daily News reports that scientists “raised eyebrows” at several factors NIOSH looked at prior to adding these cancers to the list. These include:
- Only a few of the 17 people on the advisory panel are experts at tracking cancer and weighing causal risks; they were outnumbered by occupational physicians and advocates for Sept. 11 rescue and cleanup workers.
- Exposure to a cancer-causing agent doesn’t necessarily mean someone will develop cancer. And if they do, conventional medical wisdom says it generally takes decades. But the panel agreed to cover those diagnosed with cancer within just a few years of the disaster.
- The panel members favored adding cancers if there was any argument to include them. They added thyroid cancer because a study found a higher-than-expected number of cases in firefighters who responded to 9/11, even though thyroid cancer is generally linked to genetics or high doses of radiation. The same study found a lower-than-expected number of lung cancers, but it was added because it was considered a plausible consequence of inhaling toxins at the site.
Howard's decision, based on an advisory panel’s recommendation, will go through a public comment period and additional review before it is final.