U.S. Lawmakers Want Cancer Added to WTC Disease List

Evidence of a cancer tie is still largely lacking, according to a recent study.

Posted: 09/08/2011 08:04 PM EDT

In this Oct. 11, 2001 photo, firefighters make their way over the ruins of the World Trade Center through clouds of smoke at ground zero in New York. (Photo: AP Photo/Stan Honda, Pool)

NEW YORK (AP) — A new medical study supports the argument for including cancers on a list of World Trade Center-linked diseases that qualify for assistance under the national Sept. 11 health program, federal lawmakers said Wednesday.

"The evidence is now compelling," said U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, standing with colleagues at the entrance to the subway station at the trade center site in lower Manhattan. "It's essential that we do this."

But evidence of a cancer tie is still largely lacking. The lawmakers — Nadler was joined by U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Charles Rangel and Nydia Velazquez — were responding to a study conducted by the city's fire department that found no significant increase in cancer rates among nearly 9,000 firefighters exposed to trade center dust.

The lawmakers said they filed a petition with the administrator of the 9/11 health program to require an immediate review of the study, which was published Thursday in the medical journal The Lancet, and to consider adding coverage for cancers.

The study did note a few potentially worrisome trends, including an unexpected number of thyroid cancers. But cancers can take decades to develop, and the authors of the study cautioned that the seven-year period the study covered might be too brief to make anything but qualified interpretations.

This past summer, the national program's administrator declined to add cancers to the list of covered illnesses, saying there was insufficient medical evidence that dust from the destroyed twin towers was giving people the disease.

Federal lawmakers said the new study was still sufficient to revisit the administrator's decision of whether to add cancers to a list of diseased covered under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

"We don't want to wait until all of the evidence is in," said Rangel, who called the study "a tremendous medical bit of evidence." He said people who were sick could not afford to wait.

Nadler said that they have "always known that many of the chemicals in that that toxic brew that people were breathing causes cancer." And he said they knew with "moral certainty" that a link between 9/11 and cancers existed, but did not have the peer-reviewed studies to support that — until now.

"It would be inhuman to wait for more and more evidence," he said.

Maloney said it was "a definitive study for firefighters, and that's a very healthy portion of our population" of those who were exposed at ground zero.

But she said she would let the medical experts who consult with the 9/11 health program administrator to make the final determination of whether the study is enough to support adding cancers.

"I won't be content, but they have to rely on medical evidence," she said.

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