Last June, we covered a very angry town meeting with a number of 9/11 clean up workers, which was held by Sheila Birnbaum, the corporate lawyer in charge of administering the compensation fund for them. The meeting was held “two days after a federal review found insufficient evidence linking cancer to Sept. 11 to warrant adding cancer to the list of conditions covered.” Yet we now know that 60.8 percent of people who were just living in a damaged apartment in Lower Manhattan following 9/11 have respiratory diseases. How could breathing in the kind of crap that caused such severe disease among workers on the pile not have caused at least some cancer?
We should note that much beloved disco singer (and Lower Manhattan resident) Donna Summer recently died of lung cancer, and she apparently blamed 9/11. Now, this seems a bit peculiar for several reasons, including the fact that she was a smoker. So "anomaly” is not the word you want connected to this issue, and hopefully it won’t be when Dr. John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, decides this week whether cancers can be treated as compensation for purposes of the $4.3 billion fund set up to help sick and dying 9/11 workers. Writes the New York Times in a front page story today:
An advisory committee in March found justification for covering 14 broad categories of cancer, raising expectations that the fund would cover at least some of them. But such a decision would create a logistical quagmire, advocates for patients and government officials conceded, and could strain the fund’s resources.
“Depending on the numbers of cancers and the criteria for those cancers, we would certainly be getting more and different claims than we were receiving previously,” said Sheila Birnbaum, the special master overseeing the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund. “We cannot add any more money to the fund, so we would have to prorate what we’re giving to people depending on the amount of people that apply, the seriousness of their injuries, the economic loss that they’ve sustained.” …
Here’s one big problem: cancers take many years to develop, but the fund will eventually run out of money and then will disband.
Paul Gerasimczyk, a police officer working a morning tour, was sent downtown as the first tower collapsed. He served 12-hour shifts six days a week for “a very long time,” he said. He retired in 2005, and then got what has become known as the World Trade Center cough. In 2007, he was told that he had renal cell cancer, which is also on the committee list. “People who have yet to get sick, I imagine a lot of them will end up indigent,” Mr. Gerasimczyk, 53, said.
There's apparently no end to this calamity.