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US : 9/11 rescuers want cancer included in 9/11 compensation

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Several US lawmakers and New York rescuers who rushed to the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001 called on the government Wednesday to include cancer as a disease that qualifies for assistance relating to the deadly terrorist attacks.   

At issue is the Zadroga Act, more than $4 billion they allocated to pay for medical treatment for rescuers. The bill covers doctors’ visits for asthma, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Congress approved the measure in 2010, and President Barack Obama signed it into law in January.

However in July a government review determined that there was “insufficient evidence” to add cancer to the list of health conditions covered.

Those who want cancer covered signed a petition urging “an immediate review of new medical evidence showing increased cancer rates among firefighters who served at Ground Zero.”    They point to a recent study in the journal Lancet showing that New York City firefighters who rushed to the doomed twin towers were 19 percent more likely to have cancer than their non-exposed colleagues.

“On September 11, we rescued you. Now it’s your turn to rescue us,” said Pat Lynch, head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, speaking at a press conference at the site where New York’s Twin Towers once stood.

“We worked with our hands and knees in a toxic cloud,” he said. Now, there are city police officers “who are sick and dying,” he said.

“The evidence is now compelling,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler, one of the Zadroga Act authors.

“Many of us have known for years that exposure to Ground Zero contaminant has led — and will continue to lead — to increases in cancer among 9/11 responders and survivors,” Nadler said.

New York congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said that it took decades to prove the link between cancer and cigarette smoking. “We have a very urgent need to act quickly now for these people who are suffering,” she said.

The Zadroga Act is named after a fallen New York City police officer who died at age 34 of cancer.

According to the Fealgood Foundation, an advocacy group for first responders run by John Feal, a construction worker who was injured at the site, 1,020 of the estimated 40,000 WTC workers and volunteers have died from health complications.

A total of 345 members of the fire department and 45 police officers have since died from cancer, surpassing the death toll on the day itself when 343 firefighters and 23 police lost their lives, Feal said.

New York, Sept 7, 2011 (AFP)