9/11 health care bill does not cover firefighters’ cancer

Remember the huge battles to get the bill passed to provide health care for the firefighters that were suffering from medical issues after working in the debris from the towers that fell during the 9/11 attacks? Most of us felt a huge relief when the “S. 1334: James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2009“ was finally passed. We wrote about it several times, with the latest being HERE.

It turns out that the bill, or at least the way the provisions are being interpreted, does not cover the treatment of cancer for the firefighters that worked on the debris pile. Cancer — you would think this would be close to the number one condition covered for the people that worked in that toxic environment.

John Howard, the World Trade Center Health Program administrator, said in a statement that cancer would not be covered because there is not adequate “published scientific and medical findings” that a causal link exists between September 11 exposures and the occurrence of cancer in responders and survivors. So if we wait, and study the link for another, what, 20 or 30 years we can prove it then?

This is a disgrace.

Jon Stewart of the Daily Show, in a piece named “I Thought We Already Took Care of This S@#t”, expresses his opinion on the issue. The clip has profanity, but it is bleeped out.

NorthJersey.com has more details about this development.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government has a vastly different approach. For years the provinces of Alberta and Manitoba have had presumptive coverage for a list of conditions for firefighters. If they are diagnosed with one of the cancers on the list, it is considered an occupational disease and they may be eligible for workers compensation benefits. In fact, Alberta expanded their list in May to include prostate, breast, skin and multiple myeloma, bringing the total to 14 types covered under the Workers Compensation Board. Their government acknowledges that firefighters are at a greater risk of contracting cancer than the general public, and it can be difficult or impossible to prove that a particular case of cancer was caused by a specific incident or exposure, on or off the job.

The future of wildland fire smoke research

JFSP smoke research planThe Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) has released their plan for wildland fire smoke research. The 58-page document outlines their priorities for funding smoke research through 2015.

Much of the emphasis appears to be directed at how to deal with the public’s perception and tolerance of smoke. Smoke is becoming an increasingly sensitive subject to the population due to larger wildfires burning for longer periods of time, concern about the effects of wildfire smoke on global warming, and prescribed fires continuing to be an important tool for land managers.

One aspect of wildfire smoke that Wildfire Today has written about frequently is the short and long term effects of smoke on the health of firefighters. On April 23, 2010 we covered the study that NIOSH and the U.S. Fire Administration are conducting about cancer among structural firefighters. We called out the land management agencies and the firefighting associations:

There needs to be a concerted effort to conduct a similar study on wildland firefighters. It should be led by a physician/epidemiologist and should evaluate the long term health and occurrence of cancer and other diseases among wildland firefighters. There is a lot of grant money out there and it should be possible to get some of it pointed towards this overlooked niche of firefighting.

Followups to that article are HERE and HERE.

The JFSP five-year plan does mention research on the effects of smoke on wildland firefighters, but at times it seems like an afterthought. For example, the objective for one of four research themes, “Smoke and Populations”, sometimes includes the “impact of smoke on populations” (page 26), and in other places it is described as “impact of smoke on populations and fire fighters” (page 21).

However, the plan does list some specific “Smoke Science Foci” that may benefit firefighters:

  • 2011: (SSP T3 -2): Epidemiological research/literature review to determine human health risk from high PM loadings.
  • 2011 (SSP T3-4): Fire fighter smoke health hazards: trends in health and exposure.
  • 2012 (SSP T3-5): Review of epidemiological research to determine human health risk from high PM, high ozone and high aromatic hydrocarbon loadings with a focus on synergisms between pollutants.

We hope that the “foci” turns into actual research.

Siren settlement: Federal Signal agrees to pay firefighters $3.8 million for hearing loss

sirenFederal Signal Corporation has reached a settlement with 1,125 firefighters who claim they have hearing loss caused by the company’s sirens. Federal Signal has been fighting numerous law suits from firefighters for years. In the settlement the company agreed to pay $3.8 million to the firefighters represented by attorney Joseph Cappelli.

If you are an emergency responder who rides in a piece of apparatus with a siren mounted on the cab roof, or if you keep the windows down while the siren is blasting, you may have an increased risk of hearing loss.  But even if your siren is on the front bumper you may still be at risk from the siren as well as the low frequency engine sounds which are transmitted through the bones in your skull to your ear. Headsets and ear plugs will provide little protection from the low frequency sounds.

To reduce your chances of hearing loss from the siren:

  1. Wear ear plugs or a sound-attenuating headset.
  2. Keep the windows up while responding.
  3. Remove the siren from the top of the cab and install it on the front bumper.
  4. Turn off the siren when you don’t need it.

More information about the dangers of hearing loss from sirens is HERE and HERE. And HERE is an interesting article that compares electronic sirens to electro-mechanical sirens.

And if your fire engines participate in parades, do not blast the sirens, no matter where they are located on the apparatus. In my town, the fire department has been known to blast the sirens from six to eight engines all at the same time in parades, while they drive very slowly past hundreds of spectators 10 feet away.

Top wildland fire stories of 2010 – with poll

Vote on the most significant wildland fire stories of 2010

As we documented earlier this month, the 2010 wildland fire season, when measured by the acres burned in the 49 states outside Alaska, was the slowest since 2004. But in spite of that, there has been significant news about wildland fire. In fact, we posted over 670 articles this year.

In 2009 we listed some of the top stories and invited you to vote on the ones that you considered to be the most significant.

Continuing that tradition, below we have listed the top stories of 2010. The line of duty fatalities are not listed unless there was an unusual spin-off story associated with the fatality. Below the list, there is a poll where YOU can let us know which stories you feel are the most significant of 2010.

Top wildfire stories of 2010

Jan. 8: The National Park Service released the report on the August, 2009 Big Meadow escaped prescribed fire in Yosemite National Park. The fire blackened 7,425 acres before being controlled by 1,300 firefighters at a cost over $15 million. It became the eighth largest fire in California in 2009.

Jan. 11: One of the five Type 1 Incident Management Teams in California was disbanded. Bill Molumby, who had been the team’s Incident Commander for several years, retired in November, 2009 and apparently they were not able to replace him.

Jan. 21: Federal wildland firefighter bill introduced in Congress. The “National Infrastructure Improvement and Cost Containment Act” would affect the pay, retirement age, and fireline liability of federal wildland firefighters.

Feb. 1: Fire contractor sentenced to 10 months in prison for forging wildfire training certificates and task books.

Apr. 23: NIOSH to study long-term health effects of working as structural firefighter, but not as a wildland firefighter. In a follow-up a few days later, Brian Sharkey of the USFS’ Missoula Technology and Development Center downplays lung cancer risks for firefighters. NWCG later responds to our article.

Apr. 30: The International Association of Fire Chiefs, an organization that concentrates on structural fire, received at least $13.2 million from the U.S. Forest Service and DHS-FEMA over a seven-year period, reportedly for wildfire-related purposes. The IAFC became furious at Wildfire Today for exposing the information.

Jul. 5: Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, sues the Billings Fire Department over the loss of “trees and ground cover” on his property during an 1,100-acre fire in 2008.

Aug. 2: Hundreds of wildfires in Russia claimed more than 50 lives, left more than 3,500 people homeless, and caused massive air quality issues in Moscow and other areas.

Aug. 2: A BAe-146 jet airliner was converted to an air tanker and was tested in Missoula. The Interagency Air Tanker Board failed to certify it due to inadequate ground coverage of retardant.

Aug. 24: The 100th anniversary of the fires of 1910 and Ranger Pulaski’s incident are commemorated at several events in Washington, Idaho, and Montana.

Aug. 26: In spite of weather forecasts that would have alarmed most fire managers, the Helena National Forest in Montana ignited the Davis prescribed fire during a near record heat wave. The fire escaped and burned 2,800 acres. The report was released in November. The Forest Supervisor said the report did not point out “something clearly that we did wrong, done incorrectly or that we’re going to make big changes on”.

Sep. 6: The Fourmile Canyon fire burned 6,200 acres and 169 homes a few miles west of Boulder, Colorado. The fire was devastating to local fire districts within the burned perimeter in several ways, including the facts that a firefighter’s burn pile escaped and started the fire, the homes of 12 firefighters burned, and one fire station and an engine inside it burned.

Sep. 21: The Commander of the Utah Army National Guard assumed responsibility and apologized for the Machine Gun fire that burned 4,346 acres and three homes near Herriman, Utah. The fire started during target practice with a machine gun at a National Guard base.

Sep. 24: The Australian state of Victoria tested the U.S.-built DC-10 very large air tanker and concluded that it did not perform adequately and would not be suitable for use in their wildland-urban interface areas.

Oct. 13: The US Forest Service’s response to the 2009 Station fire is criticized, and Congress holds hearing in Pasadena, CA about the management of the fire, which burned 160,000 acres near Los Angeles.

Oct. 26: “Dirty Jobs” TV show features prescribed burning in a Florida wildlife refuge. Video footage captures some activities that are criticized by some viewers.

Dec. 2: A fire in Israel kills 43 prison guards and firefighters. Air tankers from the United States respond.

Dec. 7: NTSB holds a meeting about the helicopter crash on the Iron Complex fire in northern California in which nine firefighters and crew members died. Much of the blame was attributed to falsified helicopter performance documents supplied by Carson Helicopters when they applied for a contract with the U.S. Forest Service. Carson and the surviving co-pilot dispute that conclusion.

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Honorable mention stories (not exactly top stories, but interesting; they are not part of the poll).

Feb. 24: Wood piles were burned on frozen Lake Pactola in South Dakota.

Mar. 29: Washington D.C. Metro train drives through wildfire, and stops in the middle of it. And on July 25 we posted a very impressive video that was shot from a Greyhound bus that drove past a large bushfire during the night in Queensland, Australia.

May 11: NWCG outlaws the use of some terms, including “appropriate management response” and “wildland fire use”.

Jun. 20: It was not a wildland fire, but every firefighter can relate to some of the problems encountered when a kinked fire hose and improper procedures delayed the rescue of IndyCar driver Simona de Silvestro from her burning race car which crashed at Texas Motor Speedway.

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POLL

Choose three of the wildfire stories you consider the most significant of 2010.

View Results

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Feel free to leave a comment (or “response”) explaining your choices, or to discuss other news items that did not make the list.

Congressional Fire Service Caucus and the 9/11 First Responder Bill

(Scroll to the bottom to see updates)

I ran across a news article about Senator Joesph Lieberman (I-CT) accepting the nomination to serve as one of the seven or eight Co-Chairs of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, a nonpartisan group of more than 320 members of congress which:

…unites Republicans and Democrats in support of fire service legislation that benefits all first responders.

Peter King
Rep. Peter King

In perusing the Caucus’s web site, which is run by the Congressional Fire Services Institute, it turns out that Rep. Peter King (R-NY) is the Chairman of the Caucus. His name rings a bell as the off-camera Representative to which Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) was directing his anger in the video we posted on July 30, 2010. (Here is a link to another video about that encounter.)

The heated rhetoric between the two members of congress concerned a procedural delay introduced by Rep. King which initially prevented the passage in the House of the 9/11 First Responder Health Care Bill, officially known in the Senate as “S. 1334: James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2009“. Rep. King sought to delay the passage of the bill while Rep. Weiner angrily recommended passage. The bill would provide health care costs for 9/11 rescue workers, sickened after exposure to the toxic smoke and debris. Finally, the House passed the bill in September.

Recently, however, Rep. King has come out strongly in favor of the 9/11 First Responder Health Care Bill. In fact, he is one of the few Republicans to openly support it, and on December 7, 2010 wrote a letter to his Republican colleagues asking for their votes in the Senate.

There is still a chance that the bill will receive an up or down vote in the Senate before the session ends this year. Votes have been prevented previously by a Republican filibuster. If it is not passed by the Senate this year, the slate will be wiped clean and it will have to be re-introduced in both the House and the Senate next year.

But you can help get the bill passed. CALL YOUR SENATORS! Here is a list of their phone numbers.

If you are still undecided about helping firefighters, check out Jon Stewart’s position on the issue of health care for 9/11 first responders.

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UPDATE @ 4:37 p.m. MT, Dec. 20, 2010:

The Wall Street Journal has the latest news about the bill.

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UPDATE @ 9:00 p.m. MT, December 21, 2010:

This bill is gathering more attention thanks to Jon Stewart. It appears that there are enough votes now in the Senate to pass a slightly revised version. BUT. There is one Senator that says he will hold it and prevent its passage. That esteemed individual is Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK).

In an interview on Fox News Coburn said two of his reasons for killing the bill are:

1. The bill has not been through a committee yet and there have been no hearings.

WRONG. A committee that Coburn is on held hearings on the bill, but Coburn chose not to attend.

2. Coburn said: “This is a bill that has been drawn up and forced through Congress at the end of the year on a basis to solve a problem that we didn’t have time to solve and we didn’t get done.”

WRONG. The bill was introduced in the Senate June 24, 2009, and was passed by the House on September 29, 2010, but has not been voted on in the Senate.

It is incredible that an idiot like this can single-handedly prevent our 9/11 first responders, some of whom are dying from exposure to toxic shit at the 9/11 site, to receive the health care they need.

Even if the Senate does pass this bill over the insane objections of Senator Dufuss Coburn, the House will still need to vote on the revised version, since it has been changed after they passed it in September.

More information:

  • Even Fox New’s Shep Smith took on Senator Coburn today for his stance on this bill. See the 37-second video HERE.
  • Shep Smith called many Senators who refused to talk with him about the bill. “We called a lot of Republicans today who are in office at the moment,” he said Monday afternoon. “These are the ones who told us ‘no’: Senators Alexander, Barrasso, Cornyn, Crapo, DeMint, Enzi, Grassley, Kyl, McConnell, Sessions, Baucus, Gregg, and Inhofe. No response from Bunning, Coburn, Ensign, Graham, Hatch, and McCain.”
  • We first wrote about this bill on July 30, 2010.
  • And we wrote more about it on December 17, 2010. That post has two videos in which Jon Stewart takes on the issue.
  • Call your two Senators (list of phone numbers) especially if one or both of them are Republicans, most of whom plan to vote against the bill.
  • Call Senator Tom Coburn’s office at (202) 224-5754.
  • A few hours after we wrote our second article about this issue on December 17, if you searched Google for “9/11 First Responder Health Care Bill”, that Wildfire Today article was the fifth one listed on the first page. Now there has been so much publicity about the issue that Wildfire Today does not show up in the first five pages of Google results.
  • This is the sixth time we have used the tag “idiot” for an article since January, 2008.

Help get the 9/11 First Responder bill passed

We generally don’t stoop low enough here at Wildfire Today to write about politics, but there is one issue that anyone who cares about firefighters should not ignore – the 9/11 First Responder Health Care Bill, officially known in the Senate as “S. 1334: James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2009“. It was introduced in the Senate June 24, 2009, passed by the House on September 29, 2010, but has not been voted on in the Senate. According to a CNN story, it is being filibustered by Republicans.

We first wrote about this bill on July 30, 2010 when Republicans in the House were fighting to kill the bill. In that article we included an amazing video showing Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) ripping into another Representative who intended to use certain procedures to prevent a vote on the bill. Two months later it passed the House, with a vote of 268 to 160.

The bill is named after a deceased New York Police Department detective who died after having worked at the 9/11 ground zero site in the toxic atmosphere. It seeks to provide medical coverage for the hundreds or thousands of firefighters, police, and other responders who worked at the 9/11 sites and were breathing the air that EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman said on September 13, 2001 was “not of concern”. Her statement contradicted scientists’ data from the previous day, and other facts that came to light later.

The mainstream media has virtually ignored this issue for the last several months. Recently Jon Stewart of the Daily Show has taken up the cause in a big way.  On Thursday December 16 he said this:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Worst Responders
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>The Daily Show on Facebook

He also interviewed a panel of four first responders, some of whom are suffering from illnesses caused by the work they did at the 9/11 site:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon – Thurs 11p / 10c
9/11 First Responders React to the Senate Filibuster
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>The Daily Show on Facebook

Most people, if they watch these videos or read about the issue will be moved to take action to help these firefighters and other first responders.

What you can do

Call your two Senators (list of phone numbers)

Call minority leader Senator Mitch McConnell, (202) 224-2541. He has played a major role in preventing this bill from being voted on in the Senate.

One more video

One more Jon Stewart video about the 9/11 First Responder bill is below. It is from Monday, December 13. He starts talking about the bill at about the 2:00 minute mark.

Continue reading “Help get the 9/11 First Responder bill passed”