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Calls for reauthorization of 9/11 compensation law

AP Photo/Gulnara Samoilova

Lawmakers and people who suffered health problems after working at the collapsed World Trade Center after 9/11 are calling on Congress to renew the law that provides health care and compensation to those workers.

Tom Lano of West Babylon, Long Island worked for a hazardous materials removal company that was contracted to help the cleanup of buildings around the Ground Zero site. Years later, he started having health problems. “pleural plaque, chornic cough, asthma,” Lano said.

Lano qualified for health care under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which provided assistance to first responders and workers like him who were there in the days after 9/11. The two main components of the law are set to expire in 2015 and 2016.

"Anything I have can turn to cancer, I guess. My breathing could get worse as life goes on. And you need medical; you need coverage,"  he said. "And if they stop it in 16, what do we do then?"

Earlier this week, Democratic U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York called on her colleagues to support an extension to the law.

“So today we are united to ensure that every 9/11 first responder and eligible survivor who was injured or made ill by the toxins at Ground Zero continue to get the medical care and compensation they need and they deserve,” said Gillibrand.

Republican U.S. Congressman Peter King of Long Island also supports the extension. “This is not a Republican issue, it’s not a Democratic issue. This is an American issue,” he said.

Those who opposed the original bill said they doubted the science behind the links between cancers and ground zero, and suggested that police and firefighters already had enough health care coverage.

The new bills are expected to be introduced in both houses of Congress this month. 

Craig produces sound-rich features and breaking news coverage for WGBH News in Boston. His features have run nationally on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, as well as on PRI's The World and Marketplace. Craig has won a number of national and regional awards for his reporting, including two national Edward R. Murrow awards in 2015, the national Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi award feature reporting in 2011, first place awards in 2012 and 2009 from the national Public Radio News Directors Inc. and second place in 2007 from the national Society of Environmental Journalists. Craig is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Tufts University.
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