Federal officials now say the health program for first responders and New Yorkers sickened by toxic dust following the September 11th attacks in Lower Manhattan will include treatments for 50 types of cancer. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
Many who worked on the remains of the World Trade Center site are suffering from respiratory troubles, persistent coughs and cancer.
In 2010, Congress passed legislation that created a $4.3 billion fund to treat and compensate rescue workers and local residents who had fallen ill. But the fund did not include money for people who were fighting cancer.
"Cancers take longer to grow and to happen," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney of Manhattan and Queens. "And we needed the medical research to have the cause and effect and determination."
At the urging of New York politicians and first responders, a federal doctor is now recommending that 50 types of cancer be covered by the September 11th fund. There will be a public comment period before the cancers are officially included.
"We recognize how personal the issue of cancer and all of the health conditions related to the World Trade Center tragedy are to 9/11 responders, survivors and their loved ones," Dr. John Howard of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health said in a statement.
"We have been walking the halls of Congress since late '04, early 2005 trying to close the deal on one of the greatest American tragedies," said Alex Walker, a September 11th worker who is a member of United We Stand. "Today, we are ecstatic."
New York politicians are praising the development.
"It's absolute great news for New York," Maloney said
But they say their work is not yet done.
"We are just going to keep fighting until every disease, every cancer that our heroes are afflicted with will be covered by this fund," said New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
There is, however, a potential downside for some victims. The September 11th fund has a set amount of money in it. Every disease added to the eligible list broadens the pool of people applying for funding, which could mean smaller payouts overall. But there are already plans to ask for more money.
"The pot of money that we've been able to secure is only good for the next five years," Gillibrand said. "We will have to go back and ask for more. It wasn't a fund for the life of our first responders."
For now, though, the victory is a real one, especially for those who rushed to Lower Manhattan to help heal a city after disaster.