A widow of a 9/11 firefighter who spent 500 hours at Ground Zero and died of cancer at the age of 44, listens during a press conference at Ground Zero in 2010 by emergency workers protesting opposition to funding health care bill for ill Ground Zero rescuers. People with cancer who were caught in the aftermath of the World Trade Center collapse should be eligible for aid, authorities said. (AFP Photo/Timothy A. Clary)
People with cancer who were caught in the aftermath of the World Trade Center collapse during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York should be eligible for aid, authorities proposed Friday.
A wide range of dozens of cancers was recommended to be added to the list of conditions officially linked to 9/11, when thousands of local residents and rescue workers were forced for weeks to breathe dust and fumes from the fallen towers.
A $4.3 billion fund is available for 9/11 health victims but until now cancer sufferers -- believed to be in the many hundreds -- have not been able to place claims of their own.
Until now, most of the aid recipients have had respiratory diseases.
The official recommendation by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has long been delayed since there has been little evidence of a direct link between the World Trade Center tragedy and cancer.
In the ruling, some cancers are excluded, but 14 categories are included and sufferers would qualify for free treatment and compensation.
However, the pool of available money will not expand.
"We recognize how personal the issue of cancer and all of the health conditions related to the World Trade Center tragedy are to 9/11 responders, survivors and their loved ones," WTC Program Administrator John Howard said in a statement.
"The proposal posted today in the Federal Register would add all types of cancers recommended by the WTC Health Program Scientific/Technical Advisory Committee."
Howard said that public comment would follow, meaning the change was not yet certain.
Three New York congressional representatives -- Representatives Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler and Peter King -- praised the proposal and said there was no doubt of a link between cancer and the toxic Ground Zero site.
"We are thrilled," they said in a joint statement. "As we have all seen with our own eyes again and again, cancer incidence among responders and survivors is a tragic fact, and we must continue to do everything we can to provide the help that those who are sick need and deserve."