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Jon Stewart Urges 9/11 Health Panel to Cover Cancer

By Julie Shapiro | February 7, 2012 12:04pm

LOWER MANHATTAN — Jon Stewart dropped his joking demeanor this week to issue a serious call for health coverage for 9/11 first responders with cancer.

Just weeks before a medical panel will decide if the federal government's $2.8 billion 9/11 health fund should cover cancer, the "Daily Show" host released a four-and-one-half minute video urging the panel to help all those who are sick.

"You need to cover cancer under this bill," Stewart said in the video, "and not just one type of cancer, or five or 10 — all the cancers, A to Z. After all, isn't covering their chemo bills the least we can do in return for their hard work [and] devotion?"

In the video, posted on the FealGood Foundation's website, Stewart, a TriBeCa resident, also lampooned the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act for leaving out cancer while covering relatively milder conditions like chronic cough and carpal tunnel syndrome.

"While carpal tunnel syndrome is certainly uncomfortable, and any first responders who are having typing-related issues are I'm sure grateful," Stewart said, "[cancer] seems like it might be more of a central thing."

While the Zadroga law does not include cancer, it did set up a panel of experts, the World Trade Center Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee, to periodically review new research and decide if additional conditions should be included.

The advisory committee is holding public hearings next week on whether to cover cancer and is scheduled to vote as soon as March. If cancer is included, those who are sick would receive compensation for treatment, lost earnings and suffering.

While Stewart acknowledged that it may take decades to prove an unequivocal link between cancer and the toxic fumes at Ground Zero, he said the panel should not wait for scientific research to catch up to what everyone already knows —  "Breathing in Trade Center dust definitely ain't good for you."

"So if we err, let's err on the side of getting the thousands of first responders who were stricken with cancer the help they need now," Stewart continued.

"Let our mistake in this be that we maybe help a couple of first responders pay for their cancer treatments, even though their cancer was caused by red dye and cell phone radiation, and not their dedication at Ground Zero. That is a mistake that is much easier to live with than the opposite."

The World Trade Center Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee will meet from noon to 5 p.m. Feb. 15 and from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 16 at 26 Federal Plaza. The committee will hear public comments 3:45 to 4:45 p.m. Feb. 15 and from 8:45 to 9:45 a.m. Feb. 16. To sign up to comment, call 513-533-8611 or email nioshdocket@cdc.gov. To listen to the meeting by phone, call 1-800-593-0693 and enter code 37121.