NEW YORK — Ground zero residents and first responders sick with cancer will continue to be excluded from receiving help from the federal government program created to aid victims of the Sept. 11 World Trade Center terror attacks until at least 2012.
A federal review of scientific evidence, required under law and published Tuesday, supports keeping cancer off a list of Sept. 11 health problems including asthma, interstitial lung disease and mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Some first responders and people who lived near the lower Manhattan site on Sept. 11, 2001, believe their cancer is connected to the cloud of toxins that bloomed from the destruction of the 110-story WTC twin towers. But the review, by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, determined that "very little" evidence had been reported on the link between the massive toxic cloud and cancer.
"Insufficient evidence exists at this time to propose a rule to add cancer, or a certain type of cancer," to the list of diseases that qualify for aid under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, the report said.
The report said only one peer-reviewed article was published on the subject in 2009 and two others were based on models to estimate the risk of cancer.
"These limitations in the exposure assessment literature make scientific analysis of a causal association between exposure and health effects, such as cancer, quite challenging," it said.
Telecommunications worker Richard Dambakly, who moved from New York two years ago and now lives in Hampstead, N.C., said he worked for four months at ground zero and later was diagnosed with blood cancer. He called the review "nonsense."
"I have to tell you I'm not happy about it," said Dambakly, 49, adding that he had no medical insurance. "You don't have to do research to know people have gotten sick from working there. I know I got sick there."
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., called on the director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to accelerate research and data collection to examine the links between cancer and exposure to contaminants at ground zero.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., called the report "premature."
"So many people have gotten such rare cancers — and at young ages — that it seems obvious there must be a link," he said in a statement.
The Zadroga Act, named for a police detective who died at age 34 after working at ground zero, was created to aid those who were sickened. It guarantees that those facing health problems related to Sept. 11 will be monitored by doctors and receive treatment at least until 2015. It also requires the administrator of the World Trade Center Health Program, established by the act, to review medical evidence to determine if there is reason to add cancer to the list of diseases covered.
The next review will be conducted in early to mid-2012.
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The cause of Zadroga's 2006 death continues to be debated. His supporters say he died from respiratory disease contracted at ground zero. But the city's medical examiner said his lung condition was caused by prescription drug abuse, not by World Trade Center particles.
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Copyright 2011 Associated Press