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9/11 health fund won’t pay for cancer

Link between exposure to World Trade Center site and the disease is unproven, federal officials say.

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A 9/11 health fund will not pay Ground Zero workers if they get cancer because there are no definitive links between exposure to the toxic World Trade Center site and an increased risk of developing cancer, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, signed into law last year, established a fund that will spend $4.3 billion over the next five years to monitor, treat and compensate rescue workers and residents of lower Manhattan who were exposed to toxic debris.

The fund currently provides treatment and compensation for a list of specific illnesses, including asthma and other respiratory diseases, but not cancer. However, the law directs the administrator of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to periodically examine the evidence to determine whether cancer should be added to the list.

In a study released on Tuesday, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health stated:

"Based on the scientific and medical findings in the peer-reviewed literature…insufficient evidence exists at this time to propose a rule to add cancer, or a certain type of cancer'' to the list of illnesses linked to working at Ground Zero.

A link between Ground Zero and cancer is difficult to pinpoint because the disease strikes so many people, the New York Times notes. In the United States, one in two men and one in three women will develop cancer over a lifetime.

Advocates hope that the next review of the medical literature, scheduled to take place in 2012, will reach a different conclusion.

“I’ve been to 53 funerals in the last five years, and 51 were cancer-related,” said first responder advocate John Feal. “This is an insult.”