Air Today . . . Gone Tomorrow Article

WTC Health Survey Reveals Psych Toll
By Frankie Edozien, New York Post, November 23, 2004

The first findings from a massive collection of health data at Ground Zero were made public yesterday, showing that residents and emergency workers have more psychological problems than average New Yorkers, as well as persistent cough and respiratory ailments.
Eight percent of the 57,000 participants in the World Trade Center health registry who were questioned reported a serious mental problem after 9/11.

The citywide average for such problems is 5 percent, officials noted.

The registry comprises a total of 70,000 individuals, including downtown residents, those present when the Twin Towers collapsed and emergency responders.

The survey also found:
* 47 percent had sinus problems.
* 42 percent had shortness of breath.
* 37 percent had persistent cough.
* 38 percent had wheezing and throat irritation.

"What this shows is that tens of thousands of people had significant lung problems from the time of exposure," city Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden said in releasing the data.

Under the registry program, participants are periodically questioned about their health. In the future, they may be given medical exams as well.

Officials hope to track enrollees for as long as 20 years.

Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, who himself is enrolled in the study, called the registry — the largest of its kind in the world — an "enormously important study."

"Thousands of our people came down with [WTC cough]," Scoppetta said. "Happily, most of the firefighters had their symptoms ameliorated."

The preliminary data from the health registry, which will be updated quarterly, also found that of people who were below Chambers Street when the Twin Towers fell, 48 percent reported some sort of injury. The most common was eye irritation.

Frieden said it was too early to draw conclusions from the registry.

"Only the long-term evaluation is going to give us the long-term safety or lack of safety of the exposure to toxic fumes," Frieden said. "This is really just the beginning."

Meanwhile, Gov. Pataki yesterday announced the creation of a construction command center to coordinate the massive building effort under way at Ground Zero.

The new agency will oversee the work of city and state agencies and the private sector while ensuring the quality of life for residents and visitors during the next few years of construction, Pataki said.

The governor also announced that the four living former presidents — Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton — will serve as honorary members of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation board.

By year's end, Pataki said work on three transportation projects will have begun, and the schematic design for the memorial should be compete.

Steel for the new Freedom Tower is expected to be delivered in the spring, and a summer groundbreaking is scheduled for the site's expanded transportation hub that will eventually link lower Manhattan by rail with Long Island and John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Additional reporting by Leonard Greene

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