Last Thursday, "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" brought its unique brand of political satire to point out a major flaw in the 9/11 Health Care Bill for Ground Zero first responders. The highly-touted bill covers a litany of diseases such as chronic coughing, laryngitis and carpal tunnel, but surprisingly does not cover cancer treatments. The argument used by some is that there is no scientific proof that the dust inhalation caused the cancers which are killing the brave heroes who fought dangerous conditions to find the remains of those who died there following the terrorist attacks.
When the World Trade Center was constructed in 1968, asbestos was used as a fireproofing material. While there were several asbestos abatement projects after construction, hundreds of tons of the toxic mineral were still present at the time of the terrorist attacks. When the buildings collapsed that fateful day, a toxic dust cloud filled with carcinogens rolled from the site, creating a 16-acre disaster zone. Dangerous levels of asbestos were reported throughout the city, and the clouds caused dust to enter vents and open windows throughout the city.
Over 40,000 emergency workers were exposed to this toxic dust at Ground Zero, and the results are beginning to show, as a large number of these rescuers are developing rare diseases and cancers such as mesothelioma at an alarming rate. Thousands more were exposed from being in the area during and after the events as well. It will be very difficult to know just how many more first responders were effected since mesothelioma symptoms can take decades to surface.
Hopefully the attention brought to this story by Jon Stewart will create a need to change this situation. It is time to give first responders the medical treatment they deserve.