LOWER MANHATTAN — A panel of medical experts will soon decide whether the federal government's $2.8 billion 9/11 health fund should cover cancer — and they want to hear from the public before making a decision.
The World Trade Center Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee is asking Downtown residents, first responders and others to weigh in on whether those who got cancer after being exposed to 9/11 toxins ought to be compensated for their illness.
Written comments are due Wednesday, and those who want to speak directly to the committee can participate in a conference call Jan. 24. The committee will also hold a public meeting in New York City in February, but details about the hearing haven't been confirmed.
Catherine McVay Hughes, vice chairwoman of Community Board 1 and a member of the WTC Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee, encourages as many people as possible to make their voices heard.
"It's important for the committee to be aware of all the information on cancer and how it correlates to exposure at the World Trade Center," Hughes said.
While many Ground Zero recovery workers developed cancer after spending hundreds of hours at the site inhaling carcinogenic chemicals, the federal government decided in 2010 that there was not enough medical evidence to include cancer on the list of illnesses covered by the $4.3 billion James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.
Congress did set up the scientific advisory committee to periodically review new research on cancer and other ailments to decide if they should be added.
The panel will likely issue a recommendation on whether to include some types of cancer as soon as March or April, Hughes said.
If cancer is added to the law, then those who have been diagnosed, along with the survivors of those who have died of cancer since 9/11, will be able to apply for restitution under the 9/11 health law's $2.8 billion Victims Compensation Fund.
Written comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, faxed to 513-533-8285, phoned in to 513-533-8611 or mailed to NIOSH Docket Office, Robert A. Taft Laboratories, MS-C-34, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, Ohio 45226. To participate in the Jan. 24 conference call, which will run from 1 to 5 p.m. with the public comment starting at 4 p.m., call 1-888-801-1939 and enter the participant code 62062756.