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The 9/11 Zadroga Act Wins Important Battle for Mesothelioma Victims But Loses Strong Advocate

One Step Closer to Zadroga Act Coverage of Mesothelioma and other Asbestos-Related Cancers

February 22, 2012 – Last week, the 15-member World Trade Center Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee, appointed by Congress to review research and decide which health conditions are linked to toxins at Ground Zero following the 9/11 attacks, concluded that research clearly shows a link between 9/11 exposure and cancer. As a result of the Committee’s findings, hundreds of 9/11 first responders could receive compensation for their cancer treatment  under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. If cancer is officially included as a covered health condition under the Zadroga Act, those who have been diagnosed with cancer and the families of those who have died from it will be able to apply to the $2.8 billion 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund to cover their medical expenses and for compensation for pain and suffering.

The Zadroga Act established the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program, which ensures that the first responders on 9/11 continue to receive monitoring and treatment services for 9/11-related health problems through at least 2015. The WTC  Health Program also provides residents of the World Trade Center area, as well as students attending school and people employed in the area during the 9/11 terrorist attack, the rescue and the clean-up activities, with an initial health evaluation to determine program eligibility, health monitoring and medical care for 9/11-related health conditions.

The WTC Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee will now draft a list of all the specific cancers they believe should be covered. Based on the existing research, a preliminary list  includes mesothelioma, blood cancers, lymphoma, leukemia, lung cancer, and multiple myeloma.  The Committee’s final recommendation on the inclusion of cancers will be submitted to Congress within the next couple of weeks. Dr. John Howard, the World Trade Center health program administrator for the federal government, will make the final decision by early April on which cancers, if any, should be covered.

Victims of Mesothelioma and Other Occupational Diseases Mourn the Loss of Dr. Stephen Levin

While advocates for the inclusion of cancer under the Zadroga Act were optimistic that their long battle was close to a victorious end, they were also sadden by the recent death of a long-time supporter of their cause.  Dr. Stephen Levin, a professor of occupational medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, died earlier this month.  He helped launch the WTC Health Program under the Zadroga Act that cares for almost  30,000 people.

Born in Philadelphia, Dr. Levin was also a pioneer in the study of asbestos-related diseases and a leader in studying and controlling lead poisoning in construction workers. In the 1990s,  he successfully lobbied New York State and federal authorities to require that respirators and vacuum hoses be provided to protect bridge workers from lead poisoning. More recently, he did important research on the asbestos-tainted vermiculite mine at Libby, Montana, which was linked to cancer and respiratory disease suffered by area residents, including mesothelioma, and which has since been declared a public health emergency by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

As co-director of the Irving J. Selikoff Occupational and Environmental Medical Center, Dr. Levin was known as one of the foremost experts in asbestos-related cancers and diseases  and was a well-respected advocate for workers suffering from occupational disease.  He was one of the first advocates in support of 9/11 first responders and residents near the World Trade Center and predicted widespread health effects from the debris caused by the destruction of the towers.

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