Bureaucratic red tape delaying approval of uterine cancers as 9/11 illnesses, advocates say
At least 50 women who worked as first responders at Ground Zero and those who were nearby may receive coverage from the World Trade Center Health Program
By Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — Federal health officials are dragging their feet on adding cancers of the uterus to a list of 9/11-related health conditions — outraging survivors fighting to have the illnesses recognized.
“They’re going to delay this as long as they can,” retired Con Edison employee Cheryl Hall told the Daily News. Hall worked at Ground Zero for weeks following the terror attacks and paid for her uterine cancer surgery earlier this year without any federal assistance. “Part of me feels they’re hoping we die before they have to take care of us.”
After countless calls to add uterine cancers to the 9/11 illness list, the federal World Trade Center Health Program proposed adding them to its list of health conditions in May. The proposal went through a 45-day public review and was expected to be added to the list by the beginning of June.
That was nearly five months ago.
Sources with knowledge of the issue said there were no public or scientific challenges and the proposal will ultimately be approved. No one knows, however, just when this will happen.
Unnecessary bureaucratic red tape is stopping its approval as the proposal slowly shuffles its way from one desk at the federal Department of Health and Human Services offices in Washington, to another before it goes to Secretary Xavier Becerra’s desk, the sources said.
While women made up a small percentage of 9/11 first responders, many women either lived near the World Trade Center or, like Hall, helped in recovery efforts after the towers fell and breathed the same toxic air.
“The petition to add uterine cancer to the list of covered conditions was filed in September 2020, which means that it’s now been more than two years without a decision from the Department of Health and Human Services,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney. “In the 21 years since 9/11, too many people have been diagnosed with uterine cancer as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals, pulverized drywall and powdered cement.”
Benjamin Chevat, executive director of the 9/11 Health Watch, agreed and called on Becerra to move on the issue immediately.
“Secretary Becerra needs to finalize a decision on this now and end the delays,” Chevat said. ”If the secretary told everybody to get this done, the decision will be made by the end of the week.”
If the addition is approved, at least 50 women who worked as responders at Ground Zero and those who lived or worked nearby and now have uterine cancer will receive full coverage from the World Trade Center Health Program for past and future treatments.
Those who have developed uterine cancer will also be able to seek compensation from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.
Stephanie Stevens, a spokeswoman for the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health, which is handling the proposal for the HHC said “the review is still in process.”
Besides the public review, the proposal also has to undergo an “independent peer review,” she said.
“If after review of the public and peer-review comments the World Trade Center Health Program decides to move forward with adding uterine cancer to the list, it is required to publish a Final Rule, which would go into effect 30 days after publication,” Stevens said.
The delays have done nothing but anger Hall.
“I really believe that had this been a man’s disease and a man could get uterine cancer, it would have been covered right away,” she said. “You got 90 cancers on this list, why wouldn’t this be one of them?
“It’s unfair,” Hall added. “I just wish there were men in power backing up the women who need this help.”
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