Study questions link between cancer and 9/11 debris
A study due to be released Wednesday casts doubt on links between cancer and toxic dust in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in New York — only six months after dozens of cancers were declared eligible for compensation.
The New York Health Department study, which will appear in the Journal of the American Medical Association, said the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 against the World Trade Center “resulted in the release of known and suspected carcinogens into the environment.”
However, despite “public concern that exposures may have resulted in increased cancers,” the ratios “for all cancer sites combined in 2007-2008 was not significantly elevated.”
The study was the biggest ever done, involving 55,778 New York state residents, including large numbers of rescue and recovery workers.
The study muddied the waters for the hot-button issue, coming after 50 cancers were added to the list of diseases eligible for access to a $4.3 billion World Trade Center compensation fund.
Experts said the topic is so complex that the study will not be the final word.
It found that those associated with the World Trade Center did see “an excess risk for prostate cancer, thyroid cancer, and myeloma in 2007-2008 compared with that for New York State residents.”
However, “these findings were based on a small number of events and multiple comparisons.”
New York city’s health commissioner, Thomas Farley, told The New York Times that the study could not be said to invalidate the federal government’s earlier decision.
“Cancers take 20 years to develop,” he told the Times, “and we might see something different 20 years down the line.”
Farley said it was better to be safe than sorry.
“You don’t want to wait 20 to 30 years to get a definitive answer to which people may be suffering today.”
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommended in June for cancers to be included, and confirmed this in September.
A $4.3 billion fund is available for 9/11 health victims but until then cancer sufferers — believed to be in the many hundreds — had not been able to place claims of their own. The new rule took effect in mid-October.
Until then, most of the aid recipients, including local residents and emergency services personnel, have received compensation for respiratory diseases linked to the toxic dust and fumes from the fallen towers.