U.S. to cover cancer treatment for 9/11 responders

The 70,000 surviving firefighters, police officers and other first responders who raced to the World Trade Center after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 will be entitled to free monitoring and treatment for some 50 forms of cancer.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health announced on Monday that responders as well as survivors exposed to toxic compounds from the wreckage, which smoldered for three months, will be covered for cancer under the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

The act, which also covers responders and survivors of the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon outside Washington, was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Jan. 2, 2011.

The decision addresses concerns over the rising health toll for emergency workers in the wake of the attacks, when aircraft slammed into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in New York and the U.S. military command center in northern Virginia…

Illnesses related to the Sept. 11 attacks have caused an estimated 1,000 deaths. Last week, the New York City Fire Department etched nine more names into a memorial wall honoring firefighters who died from illnesses after their work at Ground Zero, bringing the total to 64.

Cancers to be covered include lung and colorectal, breast and bladder, leukemias, melanoma and all childhood cancers.

The program had already covered respiratory diseases such as asthma and pulmonary fibrosis, mental disorders including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as well as musculoskeletal conditions.

But researchers have known that responders and survivors, including local business owners and residents, were exposed to a complex mixture of chemical agents, including human carcinogens…

Pulverized building materials created a toxic pall of cement dust, glass fibers, asbestos, crystalline silica, metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, pesticides and dioxins – “a total of 287 chemicals or chemical groups,” the WTC health program reported in 2011.

…The program’s science advisory committee wrote to Dr. John Howard noting that 15 compounds in the smoke, dust and gas at the WTC site are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as known to cause cancer in people…They therefore recommended that the program cover cancers that met any of three criteria: cancers caused by any 9/11 compound which the IARC classifies as a human carcinogen, cancers where high levels of inflammation have been documented, and cancers that epidemiology studies suggest that responders are at higher risk for than the general population…

Malignancies caused by compounds in the debris include respiratory system cancers, from the nose to the lungs. They have been linked to arsenic, asbestos, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, nickel and silica dust, all of which were in WTC air.

Cancers of the esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum and liver have been linked to tetrachloroethylene, asbestos, lead or polychlorinated biphenyls, also in the toxic cloud and dust.

The generally dangerous life of firefighters finally aided in developing the information needed to prove the cancer vectors. There already was a definitive, large body of data on the lives of NYC firefighters. This was able to show the spike in cancers compared to firefighters in years past who weren’t exposed to the unique toxins of 9/11.

Fed head of WTC Health Program reverses position — now supports treatment for disaster-related cancers

Federal health authorities have recommended that 50 types of cancer be added to the list of covered illnesses for people who were exposed to toxins at the site of the World Trade Center in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

The proposal, issued by Dr. John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, asks that the World Trade Center Health Program accept the recommendations of its Science/Technical Advisory Committee.

The STAC review called for expanded “coverage for certain types of cancer resulting from exposure to toxins released at Ground Zero…”

First responders, volunteers, survivors of the attacks and residents who meet specific qualifications will be eligible for coverage, according to the World Trade Center Health Program.

According to the proposed rule, an estimated 950 to 2,150 people would take advantage of the additional coverage…

The World Trade Center Health Program was created as a result of the passage of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act…designed to provide medical services and compensation for responders who were exposed to toxins while working at ground zero.

President Barack Obama signed the $4.2 billion legislation in January. The law is named after a New York police officer who died of a respiratory disease attributed to working amid the toxic chemicals at the attack site.

The move is an about-face from Howard’s announcement in July 2011, when he stated that cancer treatments would not be covered by the compensation fund. At the time, Howard said there was inadequate “published scientific and medical findings” to link September 11 exposures to cancer.

I don’t really care whether Howard’s flip-flop results from political pressure from beaucoup citizens and the few politicians adamant about getting help for survivors – or if he just got round to reading accumulated scientific studies. The important thing is the result, support and medical care for those folks exposed to toxins at the World Trade Center site.

U.S. considers using drones for more than death and destruction

U.S. regulators are looking for ways to accelerate the use of drones and other aerial technologies to restore communications after disasters like 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, which knocked out phone service for more than 3 million people.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski said this technology would have been remarkably useful after Hurricane Katrina, which also crippled 38 emergency call centers in the New Orleans area…

“If you imagine a cell tower that’s floating or flying in the sky, that’s what this technology is…,” Genachowski told the agency’s monthly open meeting.

Restoring communications in the first 72 hours after a disaster can save lives, protect property and expedite the recovery process, the FCC said.

The agency is seeking comment on what technologies are already in use and what is being developed, and on whether the technologies can work across a common network accessible by all agencies, first responders and the public…

You may recall this problem was supposed to be solved by [1] deciding on a single frequency to be reserved for first responders nationwide – and [2] the removal of so-called white space from disused TV frequencies after digital conversion to be available for first responders in emergencies.

Well, the Feds are auctioning off the white space to wireless phone companies and cell data communications. Which may be useful because in all the years since the Twin Towers disaster and Hurricane Katrina – Congress didn’t pass any regulations or plan to settle on that single frequency.


Will the GOP vote to kill jobs as further proof they hate Obama more than they love America? – UPDATED

Obama speaking at fire station in Virginia
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Maybe as early as Thursday night, the Senate will take its first vote on one bite-size piece of President Obama’s jobs bill, a $35 billion measure to fund the hiring of 400,000 teachers and a smaller number of cops and firefighters. It will fail. As usual not a single Republican will vote for it, and since a majority in the Senate is now not 51 but 60 because the Republicans filibuster nearly everything, it will fall well short of passage…

The basic facts are these. The public supports this bill. Senate Democratic sources say that of all the individual pieces of the larger jobs bill, this one polled the best by far. Better than payroll tax cuts. That’s why they decided to go with it first. The funding mechanism is also highly popular. It is a 0.5 percent (don’t miss that decimal point!) surtax on dollars earned above $1 million—so, for example, a person whose salary is $1.2 million would pay the extra 0.5 percent only on those dollars above $1 million, for a whopping tax increase of $1,000. I have not seen polling on this specific amount of tax, but surveys constantly show that the generic “millionaire’s tax” wins broad support. Just yesterday, National Journal put it at 68 percent, including 90 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of independents…

In an earlier time, in normal times, when legislators used to behave the way legislators are supposed to behave, the minority’s leaders would have brought the price tag down, made the majority and the White House agree to something they wanted—peeling back one of those EPA regulations the Republicans hate—and we’d have had a deal…the minority would have actually paid a bit of attention to those polls showing the American people backed this.

Of course, Republicans can’t say that they’ll oppose Obama on everything, but they don’t have to. People get it. It seeps out of them, like oil from a polluted stream.

It’s difficult to attempt politeness describing what passes for Republican ideology, nowadays. I frequently discuss politics [and economics, technology, education] with one of my kinfolk who is a former Republican. That is, a former member of the Republican Party. After 50 years of commitment to traditional American conservatism – the whole range from environmental conservation to fiscal soundness with a healthy taste of what Bush and Cheney would have characterized as isolationism – he left that party. He doesn’t ask me to be polite – as long as I recognize the difference between conservatism and populist hypocrites. That’s good enough for me.

Watching the effete prancing in the worst political minuet played to patriot tunes since George Wallace tried to lead the White Citizens Councils into Congress and the White House – how could anyone who hasn’t lost his mind defend these deliberate attempts to sabotage the American economy, the American people?

UPDATE: Democrats Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas voted against the administration proposal last night, as did independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. No Republican supported the measure.

Three especially worthless politicians + the predictable in-your-pants vote for the wealthiest 1% of America.

Republicans + election slogans = crapping on 9/11 responders

When does the Republican party abandon 9/11? When it’s time to provide $7.4 billion in medical treatment and compensation to first responders and residents sickened by the toxic dust after the September 11, 2001 attacks at the World Trade Center. Yesterday, the House’s 255-159 vote (243 Democrats and 12 Republicans supported the measure; 155 Republicans and 4 Democrats voted nay) fell short of the majority needed to pass the long-debated James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2009.

Not that a simple democratic majority ever mattered to Republicans.