Dr. Jacqueline Moline, director of the Queens World Trade Center Clinical Center of Excellence in Flushing, is applauding the federal government’s plan announced Monday to cover up to 50 types of cancer under the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.
For years, first responders, their families and many health experts have been pushing the government to include cancers for coverage under the Zadroga Act. Federal guidelines previously prohibited the use of funds for cancer patients because it was believed there was not enough documentation to prove the connection with 9/11.
But last June, a decision in favor of inclusion was made by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, primarily based on a study published by a British medical journal, The Lancet. It found that firefighters exposed to toxic dust and fumes at Ground Zero were more likely to develop cancer than their peers who were not exposed.
“It’s a welcome but sad reminder of the health effects on 9/11 responders,” Moline said. “It still affects their lives and their health.”
She also serves as chairwoman of population health at the North Shore-LIJ Health System. The WTC clinical center Moline heads serves about 5,000 first responders from Ground Zero.
The center is now located on the Horace Harding Expressway, but will be moving to a larger facility near parking and public transportation on Queens Boulevard in Rego Park. There have been numerous delays but the clinic is now expected to open in late October or early November.
Moline hopes the government will allocate more money to the program now that cancer patients will be given coverage. The total allocation is $2.8 billion.
Cancer patients who will benefit include first responders as well as survivors of the attack and residents who lived near the impact zone. So far, it’s been estimated that 1,000 people have died from illnesses related to 9/11.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly noted on Tuesday, prior to the 9/11 commemoration in Manhattan, that 23 NYPD officers were killed at Ground Zero and since then 52 who worked on the smoldering pile have died from illnesses contracted there.
The FDNY lost 343 firefighters in the attack and 64 since.
Cancers to be included are lung, colorectal, breast, bladder, leukemias, melanoma and all childhood cancers.
“The government has a moral obligation to the first responders from 9/11,” Moline said, noting that cases can sometimes take 60 to 70 years to develop.
She doesn’t expect to see many new patients immediately due to the additional coverage. “We’ve already seen cancer patients, but couldn’t treat them,” the doctor said. “Instead we have referred them, but now we will be able to help them.”
New York’s two U.S. senators, Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, who worked to pass the Zadroga bill, offered the following joint statement: “We fought long and hard to make sure that our 9-11 heroes suffering from cancers obtained from their work at Ground Zero get the help they deserve. Today’s announcement is a huge step forward that will provide justice and support to so many who are now suffering from cancer and other illnesses. We will press on — with advocates, the community, and our partners in government — to ensure that all those who suffered harm from 9-11 and its aftermath get the access to the program they so desperatelyneed.”
Also issuing a joint statement were Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-Queens, Manhattan), Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan) and Peter King (R-Nassau, Suffolk): “On the eve of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, today’s announcement is great news for the responders, survivors and their families, who have long known — and lived with — the reality that 9/11 dust and toxins cause cancer. We congratulate the Science and Technical Advisory Committee members ... for their hard work on behalf of our constituents and for staying true to the central aim of our legislation — to make sure that every person who gets sick due to exposure from 9/11 toxins gets the care they so desperately need and deserve.”