9/11 health claims still looking for an answer

As much as we will it to be, science is often not a simple case of black or white, a point reporter Anthony DePalma makes in a Huffington Post article describing the complexity of measuring 9/11 health effects. Mr. DePalma points out that while there is much known about the World Trade Center dust composition, the knowledge surrounding its health impact is limited; therefore, such legislation as the James Zadroga bill, which aims to reopen the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund, is based on political interpretations of various facts, not necessarily scientific truth:

The problem is that no one — not the officials, or the advocates of the bill, or the medical investigators — yet knows how many people have died because they breathed in the dust…State health officials say they know that at least 836 people who worked a day or more at ground zero during the cleanup have died, but the causes listed on their death certificates include traffic accidents, fires, military action (in Iraq and Afghanistan) and suicide, along with cancers and other diseases that may or may not be related to exposure.

In addition, Mr. DePalma adds that “none of the peer-review studies has yet made a case that cancers have increased” as a result of exposure to dust at ground zero, nor “has any study found that responders are dying at rates that would call attention to a particular illness or ailment.”

“This is an excellent piece that carefully explains that many of the current health effects described, diagnosed and attributed to exposure to tower dust and remediated with financial recompense may well be exaggerated by advocacy groups and by politicians using strong emotions rather than medical science,” notes ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross.

ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan draws a comparison between the 9/11 health claims and the claims made by veterans of the Vietnam War that exposure to Agent Orange caused a slew of health maladies. “People are attributing the diseases they’re developing at an older age, like heart disease, cancer and even Alzheimer’s, to Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam. They’ve even expanded the list to include prostate cancer, but the science isn’t there — this is a completely emotional and political reaction.”