Air Today . . . Gone Tomorrow Article|
Doctors: Most 9/11
Workers still Ailing
By Associated Press, October 30, 2003
New York (AP) - Most ground zero workers
still suffer from health problems two years after Sept. 11 and many do not have health
insurance or job security, doctors told a congressional panel Tuesday.
Several of the workers testified at a Manhattan hospital before the committee, saying they
had trouble breathing, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and no longer had the
strength to do their old jobs.
"I can't tell you how hard it is living like this," said David Rapp, a
construction worker who spent five months at the World Trade Center site and now always
carries an oxygen tank and uses three inhalers. "The fear of not being able to take
my next breath is unbearable."
Rapp said he built docks and rebuilt cars before Sept. 11, 2001, but can no longer take
out his garbage or change a flat tire.
John Graham, a carpenter and emergency services worker who spent three days a week at the
site for several months, said he has asthma and is sometimes too sick to work.
"I'm a chronically ill man who's anxious about my ability to support my family,"
Robin Herbert and Stephen Levin, the co-directors of a federal screening program at Mount
Sinai Medical Center for ground zero workers, said they had examined 8,000 workers, 75
percent of whom had persistent respiratory problems. Forty percent of the workers suffer
from mental health problems after the 2001 terror attack, the doctors said, but 40 percent
also do not have health insurance and one-third are unemployed.
The doctors said the program had only enough funding, $56 million of $90 million allocated
last year, to continue to screen and monitor the workers for five years.
Herbert and Levin, who said the workers are at risk for developing cancer in the next
decade, sought funding to screen more than 10,000 workers a year for the next 20 years.
Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., the chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security,
Emerging Threats and International Relations, questioned why more people hadn't been
examined and why some government agencies hadn't coordinated their information.
Lawmakers also questioned federal officials about how much they knew about the health
risks at ground zero in the days after the attack and about how many workers were told of
OSHA regional administrator Patricia Clark said that the agency distributed 131,000
respirators after the attack but that many workers didn't wear them because they found
them uncomfortable or thought they were unnecessary.
Clark said OSHA inspectors strongly urged workers to keep their respirators on.
"Clearly they did not wear them all the time," Clark said. "That's very
unfortunate, and I regret that very much."
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