Sunday, December 26, 2010

Dust in the Wind

Senate Republicans attempted to filibuster the bill but the “9/11 First Responders Health Care Bill” was passed by the Senate this month and the president is expected to sign it into law. Republicans, philosophically opposed to increasing the Deficit, were cornered into looking like the Grinch who stole Christmas through their opposition for the bill which provides medical coverage, to the tune of $4.3 billion, for September 11th emergency response workers.

The underlying claim is that, in working continuously around the toxic dust and chemicals surrounding the collapsed World Trade Center buildings, emergency responders have suffered a myriad of health related issues. It certainly is not a stretch to conclude that asthma and other pulmonary conditions could result from working in such conditions. However, it appears that pretty much any and all health issues arising with emergency responders working at the site, such as cancer, are now being tied to those hazardous conditions.

I recall the years of litigation regarding the Dow-Corning and the leaking silicone breast implants. Women were claiming a broad range of illnesses on the defective product. Dow paid out millions of dollars in damages after losing their case in court. However subsequent studies have since shown that the illnesses claimed by the women occur no more frequently in the implant recipients than in the general population at large who did not receive the implants.

Though scientific advances in detecting and curing cancer have increased in recent years, various cancers are still one of the largest causes of death in our society. How are we to objectively evaluate that all the claims of diseases suffered by the 9/11 first responders stem directly from their working at the World Trade Center site?

Science will take a back seat to emotional appeals, in this situation, as the "heroes" we all love to love ask of us to acknowledge their sacrifice. But in the run-up to this legislation, I have not seen any independent studies which compare the types of diseases (excluding pulmonary related) claimed from the WTC site exposure and comparing them to the prevalence of the same diseases in the general population.
"Doctors aren't sure, though, exactly how many people are ill, and scientific doubt persists about just how many of the hundreds of illnesses are actually linked to the trade center dust. Doctors still don't know whether there is any connection between the dust and potentially fatal illnesses like cancer" 1
The political irony here is that police and fire fighters generally tend to lean politically conservative and usually support Republican candidates. During the upcoming election cycles I hope these workers remember which party was the one arguing AGAINST their interests.

For me, the bottom line is that the controversy over this bill would be completely unnecessary were we to have in place a National Health Care System which would take care of ALL sick people, whatever their cause or reason. Why do a few select Americans, who by the way chose a hazardous profession, get to have their health care covered and not their fellow citizens who worked in fields or factories or have simply had the unfortunate luck of having been a victim of probability? Who in Congress speaks for these "heroes"?
The legislation is named for James Zadroga, a police detective who died at age 34. His supporters say he died from respiratory disease contracted at ground zero, but New York City's medical examiner said Zadroga's lung condition was caused by prescription drug abuse. 1
1. 9/11 First Responders Health Care Bill Faces Key Test Vote In Senate - Huffington Post, December 24, 2010


MartyrMom said...

Have you done any research on Zadroga? This is why I have a hard time believing the written word (news) sometimes.

We never can be sure what is said is real. I'm saying propaganda is involved........but......who is telling the truth?

billy pilgrim said...

i always thought that police and firemen already had excellent health insurance and benefit packages that would cover their health expenses.

Kay Dennison said...

The bottom line is that those first responders gave a lot to help others. I refuse to cast stones on their character or deny them assistance.

PeterDeMan said...

This was a political hot potato nobody could get their arms around. You made exact points this piece that I've pondered myself. Another issue is the fact that the city declared the site hazard free from dust, etc.; yet later they issued rebreathers for rescue workers and few of them chose them. Just ain't macho. People also largely miss the point that these monies aren't just covering police and fire personnel, there were hundreds of volunteers that came from across the country and worked at the site for many months; little doubt in my mind many of these claims are justified, just as there's little doubt in another of my minds that many of these claims are bogus. Oh well.

Robert the Skeptic said...

MartyrMom From what I can google from Zadroga, all that it returned are the official stories about the passage of the bill itself. For me the bottom line is that it is a National disgrace that we should have to rely on congress to provide "special" treatment for these people - were these men and woman Canadian, European, etc. they would be covered - Period!

Billy Having been in State government service myself, I am wondering why their employee coverage is not kicking in - unless they lost coverage because they could no longer work.

Kay I agree... and our veterans should receive medical care for life, in my opinion. But instead we have this "checkerboard" of rules and exceptions where we pick and choose between those who we determine are "deserving" of receiving help and those we deem "undeserving". Everyone needs medical coverage regardless of the underlying cause.

Peter My thoughts exactly... what about the "volunteers" who came from across the country? Do they fall under this umbrella as well?

I notice the same "macho" behavior as well in many professions where safety equipment, including respirators are eschewed when they should be mandatory. I am bothered by that behavior.

The Mother said...

No, the controversy would not disappear in any national health insurance environment. In America, everyone has the right to sue, and sue they do, even if they can afford their health care.

Here's the real irony of the situation:

If lawsuits against asbestos manufacturers had not forced asbestos abatement, it is reasonably possible that the towers would not have come down in the first place.

Across the board, abatement causes more environmental and health damage than the stuff in the buildings did in the first place. All due to the lawsuits.

I'm not suggesting that folks actually exposed in a work environment don't deserve compensation--of course they do. But the secretary who sits in an office under inert asbestos, um, doesn't. And yet they are the ones who forced abatement on the rest of us.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Dr. MomIn evaluating properties we had considered purchasing we were advised that asbestos insulation and flooring would remain inert as long as it was kept in place undisturbed. It is indeed the removal which creates the greater problem.

However sometimes the removal is necessary - take, for example, my wife's old high school which presented a danger here in the PNW where we are subject to earthquakes. Too expensive to remodel, the school had to be torn down and all the toxic materials disposed of.

Fiberglass as well is problematic, as I am sure you know... and now we face the increase of Compact Florescent Bulbs (with mercury) ending up in the trash and land fills.

With regard to lawsuits, more and more contracts are mandating arbitration prior to, or in lieu of, litigation. This may or may not be a good thing depending on the situation.

KleinsteMotte said...

Dust from debris is quite hard on the cardio-vascular system. Smoking has taught much about lung difficulties. That some workers are severely disabled is understandable. That free treatment and compensation needs hours of costly debate puzzles me.

Rain said...

I agree with you on this but you are using logic and these things are all moved by emotion. If we had the single payer, this wouldn't be an issue and politicians would not get the publicity they can milk and the media would have no stories to wring people's hearts. Everybody should receive health care to a basic level which will open another sticky wicket of what does that mean... It all will require higher taxes and you know how popular that is. Since they figured out they can just expand the debt and not worry about paying for it the 'leaders' have pushed these problems forward to future generations. Lotsa luck with that.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Kleinstmotte Well, Americans have been sold a "government boogyman" to be afraid of so we will continue to struggle against our own best interests in order to keep capitalism alive and in healthy in the medical system.

Rain I really would not mind if my taxes went up to pay for a national medical system; in the long run it would save us money. I cannot imagine that my taxes would go by $1,200/mo which is what I pay for our medical premiums now, and of course, the additional copays and non-covered expenses as well.