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Clinton Announces WTC Health Plan
By Margaret Ramirez, Newsday Staff Writer, May 17, 2002

    In the first effort to track long-term health effects of the World Trade Center collapse, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday announced a $12 million program that will offer free medical tests for more than 8,000 police officers, rescue workers and volunteers potentially exposed to hazardous substances.
    At a news conference in the senator’s midtown Manhattan offices, Clinton said thousands from New York City and across the nation participated in the recovery efforts at Ground Zero and later at the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island. Even so, there are only two groups systematically tracking health problems of those exposed workers: the Fire Department and the state government.
    The new program, which will be overseen by the Mount Sinai Hospital-Irving J. Selikoff Center for Occupational Medicine, will provide an estimated 8,500 free medical examinations at five occupational medicine centers in the New York region and several other clinic nationwide. “We know that there have been health consequences for those workers and volunteers on the pile,” Clinton said. “By arming ourselves with the facts now, we can do a better job of protecting workers’ health in the future.”
    Dr. Stephen Levin, medical director of the Mount Sinai occupational health center, said his staff had seen hundreds of people with persistent respiratory symptoms most likely resulting from inhaling pulverized concrete and fiberglass that rained over the city after the Twin Towers collapsed. “We’ve seen workers and volunteers whose lives are still shaken by the psychological symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and significant depression,” Levin said. “What we don’t know is what the long-term health consequences for these workers might be.”
    Levin said that within a week the hospital would establish a toll-free telephone number for those seeking examinations. Levin said calls would be screened based on exposure to dust and debris. Those at greatest risk will be scheduled first.
    Although gathering information is the focus of the project, Levin said there is a more important goal. “It’s not just a research project. It’s making sure that people who need medical care will get it,” Levin said.
    Tom Scotto, president of the Detective’s Endowment Association, who attended the news conference, said he was pleased that a medical program had been established for the hundreds of police officers who worked at Ground Zero. He said many officers with health problems had discovered that respiratory exams and medication were not covered by their basic health insurance plans.
    Scotto also expressed concern for officers working at the Fresh Kills landfill, where debris from Ground Zero is taken. “There are 500 New York City detectives, every day, 24 hours a day, at the Staten Island landfill,” Scotto said. “And in many cases, people will tell you that exposure was far greater than the World Trade Center.”


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