9/11 Health Bill to Provide Health Coverage for Workers Sickened by Mesothelioma-Causing Asbestos Continues to Languish in Congress
Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s Daily Show, took a serious tone on his show on December 16th by chastising Congress for blocking passage of the 9/11 health bill. The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act offers $7.1 billion to establish a monitoring and treatment program, including mental health services, for first responders and New Yorkers exposed to the toxic dust from the terrorist attacks. The passage of this bill would ease the financial burden many of the rescue workers are now facing after contracting asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma and respiratory disease, from inhaling the noxious cloud of dust at Ground Zero.
Stewart hosted four first responders, representatives from New York City’s police, fire and emergency-response services, each of whom have cancer or other serious respiratory disease, to discuss the issues they have encountered since they responded to the tragedy in New York on September 11, 2001. Stewart and the men expressed shock and disappointment over the Republicans’ use of filibuster and of holding out until the Bush tax cut bill was resolved.
One of the men said, “We went down there [to Ground Zero] for the love of the country, and are now fighting for our health and compensation.” All of them said they have been struggling to pay medical bills and said they did not turn their backs during the country’s time of need, but their elected officials did.
Concern for these 9/11 workers health arose almost immediately after the attack when the air quality in the Manhattan area was measurably harmful. Many experts worry that the workers reduced lung function will increase their potential for developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases in the coming years. Most cases of mesothelioma, a rare asbestos-related cancer, are diagnosed 30 years or more after exposure.
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a sponsor of the bill, told reporters of the failure of the bill, “We are gravely disappointed; I find [it] to be morally reprehensible.” Although the bill did not pass last week, Congress will continue to revise the bill and push for passage. Since Thursday, supporters re-worked the bill, scaling the funding back to $6.2 billion. Democrats hope to see passage of the revised bill this week.
9/11 Blocked in Congress