Air Today . . . Gone Tomorrow Article|
9/11 Sick and Injured
Describe Ongoing Health and Financial Struggles
By Sandy Smith, Homeland Response,
February 3, 2005
A coalition of Ground Zero first responders, area residents, medical experts, and public
offials met at Penn Station, before a trip to Washington, D.C. to speak directly to
members of Congress to urge Washington leaders to improve the federal response to the
lasting and significant health impacts of 9/11.
Specifically, the group focused on the need for Congress and the president to publicly
acknowledge the long-term scope and and Volunteer Medical Monitoring Program, provide
safety-net health treatment for those sick and injured from 9/11 but without adequate
health insurance, and make the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund available to those
whose illness or injury from 9/11 is emerging or growing worse over time, and for those
who were never properly informed that they were eligible for compensation.
"The federal government is failing in its response to the 9/11 health emergency,
people are suffering as a result, and time is slipping away to deliver needed help to
first responders and those who live and work around Ground Zero," said Rep. Carolyn
The EPA failed to protect thousands of people's health following the attacks on 9/11,
believes Rep. Jerold Nadler, D-N.Y. "The president must pursue the only appropriate
course of action in the face of such negligence: the federal government must take
responsibility for the care of these victims, and the EPA must take concrete action to
prevent even more illness by properly monitoring and controlling further demolition at
Ground Zero," he added.
Dr. Stephen Levin, MD, medical director of the Mount Sinai Center for Occupational and
Environmental Medicine, said his facility continues to see patients with serious and
persistent upper respiratory, lower respiratory, mental health and other effects.
"Much more remains critically needed to support the comprehensive evaluation and
treatment of World Trade Center responders, and others," said Levine, adding,
"all those who today and possibly in the future find themselves seriously ill as a
result of the September 2001 terrorist attacks."
A member of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 15, described the
injuries he sustained during the rescue, recovery and clean-up of 9/11. He claimed that
due to the amount of dust, smoke and toxic chemicals released after the collapse of the
WTC, the paper dust mask, which was all the protection given to him, was
"useless." As a result of his exposure, he added, he became ill and in February
2002, he was hospitalized.
"Soon after, I was diagnosed with Restrictive Airway Disease, Hepatitis C, Sinusitis
and Gastric Reflux Disease," he said. "And due to the pressure caused by the
impacted sinuses, my left ear drum collapsed causing hearing loss and a constant ringing
sound. I had always been healthy and active but when I was diagnosed with all of these
medical problems, depression set in and it too required medical attention."
Joel Shufro, executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and
Health, noted that in addition to providing health care for all the workers and the
residents who are sick because they were exposed to 9/11-related contamination, efforts
must be made to ensure that no one is exposed to toxic material in the future. "There
are at lease three buildings near the WTC that must be demolished because they were so
badly contaminated on 9/11," Shufro pointed out. "The workers who do the
demolition and everyone who lives near the buildings are going to be at risk of exposure
the toxic contamination. In order to make certain that the no new exposure takes place,
these unprecedented demolition jobs must be performed with the utmost care."
He said it is essential that EPA and OSHA take the initiative to closely oversee the work.
"If they fail to do so, and workers and residents are unnecessarily exposed, the
government agencies will not be able to say that they weren't aware of the hazard until it
was too late," said Shufro.
Maloney's office has compiled a summary of recent medical findings about ongoing 9/11
health effects, which can be accessed at
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