Public Advocate Bill de Blasio today testified at a Center for Disease Control panel regarding the need to include cancer among the illnesses covered by the Zadroga Act. De Blasio has used his authority under the New York City Charter to call on the Bloomberg Administration to release its data on police officers who served at the Ground Zero site and have since been diagnosed with cancer.
Below is the Public Advocate’s testimony as prepared:
PUBLIC MEETING OF CDC’S WORLD TRADE CENTER HEALTH PROGRAM SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE (WTC-STAC)
Testimony of Bill de Blasio,
Public Advocate for the City of New York
Thursday, February 16, 2012
“Good morning. I would like to thank the Committee for addressing the critical issue of adding cancer to the List of World Trade Center Related Health Conditions as specified in the Zadroga Act.
As Public Advocate for the City of New York, I am reminded regularly of the horrors of September 11, 2001 and the tragedy brought upon our city. Unfortunately, many of our men and women who served as First Responders on 9/11 and in its aftermath remember that day for a far different reason: they are currently suffering from cancer as a result of the toxins they were exposed to during the recovery and clean-up operations.
Mount Sinai Medical Center has treated thousands of First Responders and has conducted extensive research into the connection between illnesses these individuals have developed and their exposure to toxins at Ground Zero. I recently called on the City to provide Mount Sinai with all available information regarding New York City police officers who served at Ground Zero and subsequently developed cancer.
But while the City obfuscates, these individuals suffer and even more fear the day when they may be diagnosed with cancer. When the planes struck our city on 9/11 these brave men and women answered the call of duty, never once pausing to think about the long-term health implications. In the days and weeks following 9/11 many of these First Responders continued to work around Ground Zero and at the Fresh Kills landfill, breathing in the toxins that cause their suffering today. They worked in difficult conditions surrounded by a cloud of dust that contained known carcinogens such as asbestos, benzene, and dioxin. Any of these elements on their own would be extremely dangerous – mixed together in the air, they have been proven deadly.
Research by the New York Fire Department has found a 19% higher cancer rate among FDNY members who had been at Ground Zero than among those who had not; Mount Sinai has already found four cases of multiple myeloma among responders under age 45 – an extremely young age for diagnosis. Just recently, cancer-causing toxins were found on the uniform of Officer Alonzo Harris who survived being buried in World Trade Center debris on 9/11.
I understand the purpose of this Committee is to review scientific and technical information in order to make a recommendation to the Administrator of the World Trade Center Health Program. Yet, common sense shows us the suffering is real – these individuals are struggling and dying of cancer right now.
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association has found that at least 297 officers who served in the World Trade Center operations have been stricken with cancer. Another 66 have died of cancer since 9/11. Before September 11, 2001, an average of six police officers per year were diagnosed with cancer. Ever since the attacks, an average of 16 police officers a year are now diagnosed with cancer – constituting an increase of nearly 300%. The NYPD lost 23 officers on September 11, 2001, but even more have given their lives since that tragic day as a result of cancer they developed in the aftermath of the attacks.
Take the story of Officer Robert Oswain. Officer Oswain, a native of Mount Vernon, spent over 200 hours down at Ground Zero, working 12 hour shifts breathing in toxic air that we know was filled with carcinogens. In 2007, while in his early forties Officer Oswain was diagnosed with a Stage Four Klatskin Tumor, which is cancer of the bile duct. This is an extremely rare form of cancer that usually develops in patients older than 65. Officer Oswain had no history of cancer in his family. The only known risk factor he had for developing this rare type of cancer was exposure to toxins, including asbestos and dioxin, which were present in the air, dust, and debris at Ground Zero.
As Officer Oswain fought for his life, he also advocated for passage of the Zadroga Act with specific inclusions for certain types of cancer on the list of World Trade Center Related Health Conditions. Sadly, he lost both fights. But here today you can right at least one of these wrongs by recommending that cancer be added to the list of World Trade Center Related Health Conditions so that every first responder suffering from these rare cancers can get the help and support that Officer Oswain never had the chance to receive. Please don’t let Officer Oswain’s story get lost in your analysis because the City refuses to turn over all of the necessary data.
That our First Responders are suffering without the needed medical care is outrageous and shameful. As their advocate, I strongly urge you to include cancer under the James Zagroda Health and Compensation Act.”