John Feal of the Feal Good Foundation spoke briefly at...

John Feal of the Feal Good Foundation spoke briefly at a town hall style meeting at 52 Broadway in Manhattan. (June 29, 2011) Credit: Steven Sunshine

A federal agency Tuesday said there isn't enough evidence linking cancer with toxins in the air at Ground Zero after the Sept. 11 attacks to justify making the illness a condition covered by the Zadroga Act.

Officials with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health announced the results after a review of medical and scientific research of the toxins unleashed when the Twin Towers collapsed.

As a result, the report said, cancer will not be added to the respiratory and mental health conditions covered by the $4.3-billion James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

The announcement was a blow to hundreds of financially struggling 9/11 first responders and other survivors who've since been diagnosed with cancer.

"There are people who can't even afford the gas to [get to] their chemotherapy sessions," said John Feal, head of the FealGood Foundation, a first responders advocacy group.

Feal questioned the agency report and said proof of a connection could be found in the memorial services he has attended since the attacks.

"I've been to 53 funerals, and 51 were for people who died from cancer," he said. "If you took every toxin that was in the air that day and on the following days, each one would have a skull and crossbones on it."

Margaret Stroehlein, 40, of Babylon Village, was among those counting on help. Her husband Jeff, 47, an FDNY firefighter, was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma after working for weeks at Ground Zero.

"We have insurance, but there are tons of copays for doctors visits, hospital stays and medication," Stroehlein said Tuesday.

Stroehlein said she had to stop working to take care of the couple's three children, aged 13, 10 and 4.

Under the Act, the World Trade Center Health Program, administered by NIOSH, was charged with further researching whether cancer should be added to the list of covered conditions.

In the report, program administrator Dr. John Howard wrote that further research may find a link between 9/11 and cancer. He also wrote that the absence of published scientific and medical findings demonstrating a link doesn't mean there isn't one. The health program is expected to release a new survey of research in early or mid-2012.

The authors of the Zadroga Act, Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan), Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan) and Peter King (R-Seaford), expressed disappointment in a joint release, but said they are confident further research will establish the link with cancer.

With Sarah Crichton

Latest video