Saturday, October 04, 2014

Zadroga Act Needs An Extension

Its interesting that two things that you wouldn't normally put together have been discussed in the newspapers recently.  In the sports sections of the newspapers, extensions have been announced for Sandy Alderson, the General Manager of the New York Mets and Hal Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees, has announced they are negotiating an extension for Brian Cashman, their General Manager.  At roughly the same time Newsday and other media outlets reported on 4 recent deaths of 9/11 responders dying of cancer and leukemia.  These first responders are just a few of the many thousands who are covered under James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act which is set to expire in 2016.  Their deaths have led to calls for an extension of the Zadroga Act.  Which is necessary to help deal with the 9/11-linked illnesses being suffered by workers who worked on Ground Zero pile and were exposed to toxic dust and fumes from the smoldering rubble.

These firefighters are the latest to die since the September 11, 2001 attacks.  As reported by Newsday, the current count is 92 members of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association have died and 875 have been diagnosed with 9/11-linked illnesses.  Of those diagnosed, 80 member's illnesses are at critical stage and 177 are in remission.  Another 280 members are in the early stages of their illnesses and 25 are awaiting confirmation that their illness is World Trade Center related.

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: V...
September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: View of the World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty. (Image: US National Park Service ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Zadroga Act has allowed the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and others to study the effects of the toxic dust they were exposed to.  A recent blog post by NIOSH, "WTC Rescue/Recovery and Obstructive Airway Disease" discusses some of the information gathered from reviewing the medical records of the first responders such as:
  • The increased incidence of respiratory disease such as obstructive airway diseases (OAD), such as asthma and chronic bronchitis have been associated with intensity of exposure as measured by arrival time at the WTC site.
  • New onset OAD continues to be observed many years after exposure, contrary to conventional wisdom that irritant-induced asthma should be triggered within a relatively short time after exposure.

The above information is only touching the surface especially considering some of the other diseases we should be expecting, such as lung cancer and mesothelioma, can take 30 years or more to develop.  Some of these diseases if caught early enough can be survivable, but only with an excellent monitoring program.  In addition, it is our hope that this information will assist us in preventing first responders from being exposed to these toxic situations in any future terrorist act or environmental disaster.  The enforcement of the wearing of protective equipment including the use of proper respiratory protection would prevent the need for future Zadroga Acts.

The need to extend the Zadroga Act past 2016 is self-evident from the toxins these responders were exposed.  We hope Congress recognizes this and passes legislation and funding needed to extend the Act.

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