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Detected At WTC - 400 workers display similar symptoms
By Margaret Ramirez, Newsday Staff Writer, March 2, 2002
More than 400 day laborers, building maintenance workers and
housekeepers who were examined at a Ground Zero medical van are suffering nearly identical
symptoms of respiratory distress related to toxic substances in World Trade Center dust
The preliminary results came Friday from medical staff of the mobile
unit on their last day of operation. Since Jan. 15, the medical van parked at Broadway and
Barclay Street in lower Manhattan has been providing free examinations for cleanup workers
who scoured soot-filled offices and apartment buildings in the days after the Sept. 11
Dr. Ekaterina Malievskaia, who examined most of the workers at the van,
said hundreds reported the same symptoms including persistent coughs with phlegm, chest
and sinus congestion, and the complaint repeated over and over: "My lungs hurt."
"They have common symptoms, which is really quite remarkable given
the variety of workers that we saw," said Malievskaia, an internist at Queens
College. "We need to do more detailed analysis. But, given the significant number of
people who reported the same symptoms, we can only assume it is related to exposure at the
The medical van was established jointly by the New York Committee for
Occupational Safety and Health, the Queens College Center for the Biology of Natural
Systems and the Latin American Worker's Project.
The van was designed mainly to serve the many immigrant workers who
were hired to clean up the site without receiving respiratory protection or safety
training. All workers who visit the van are given respirators.
The committee's Jose Roberto Tobar said medical results from the van
could eventually be used to build worker's compensation cases against employers who failed
to protect workers.
Malievskaia said the other symptoms - including headaches, fatigue,
dizziness and nausea - could possibly be traced to a specific contaminant in the dust or
air. Until further analysis of blood and urine is done, however, those symptoms have no
explanation. Malievskaia, along with Dr. Steven Markowitz, expects final results at the
end of April.
A 54-year-old worker who identified himself as Manuel was at the van
for an examination Friday morning and said he was suffering from a lung irritation and a
mysterious urinary infection. "I knew there was a risk when I took the job to clean
up Ground Zero. But, I never realized the magnitude," said Manuel, who emigrated from
Barbara Young was a live-in housekeeper for a family who lived in lower
Manhattan. She said that after Sept. 11, her employers pressed her to clean up their dusty
apartment so they could move back within a week. Soon after, she came down with a cough
that still keeps her up at night.
In November, Young left her job working for the family and moved into
her daughter Jillian's Corona apartment. "I don't worry about the health problems
much. But, I still get emotional when I think about that day. I saw everything." At
that, she broke down and wept.
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