Advocates, Scientists Fail To Reach Agreement on Possible 9/11 Cancer Links

By Erin Billups NY1

The debate continued over whether there is a link between exposure to 9/11 debris and cancer, and while advocates at Monday’s City Council hearing urged lawmakers to support current studies and treatment for victims, testifying scientists were not willing to make an outright association. NY1’s Health reporter Erin Billups filed the following report.

City Council members were looking for definitive answers Monday, during a Lower Manhattan hearing on whether there is a link between September 11th debris and cancer rates among first responders.

The federal government essentially recognized the relationship when it expanded 9/11 health coverage to include 50 cancers, but lawmakers want more diseases added to that list. It’s clear everyone agrees the exposures were unprecedented.

“[They] were unusual in terms of their high intensity and the complex mix of known and suspected carcinogens involved,” said Dr. Laura Crowley of the Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine.

While scientists from Mount Sinai’s Icahn Medical School and the city Health and Fire Departments all found higher rates of certain cancers among first responders, prostate and thyroid in particular, none were willing to make an outright association.

“Most cancers would not have had time to develop. It is still too soon to reach any firm conclusion about whether we are seeing cancer increases in 9/11 responders,” said Dr. Carolyn Greene, the DOH deputy commissioner of epidemiology.

But others serving those impacted by the attack say the data does not include those who were too sick to enroll in the World Trade Center Health Program.

“The number of patients we’re counting is an underestimate,” said Dr. Iris Udasin of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

First responders who were present brushed off the scientists’ caution.

“We’ve lost 30 people in 2013, 28 of them cancer,” said John Feal, a September 11th first responder and advocate. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that 9/11 and its aftermath has caused these cancers.”

Instead, they called on local and federal lawmakers to up their game and make sure that funding from Washington continues to support current studies and treatment for victims.

Brooklyn Councilman Stephen Levin said the urgency needs to come from the Bloomberg administration.

“It’s very frustrating that we can’t get the administration to admit that there is a cause and effect there between 9/11 and cancer,” Levin said.

The next analysis of 9/11-related cancers will start next year, this time with a decade’s worth of data, from 2001 to 2011.

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