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Clinton Announces WTC
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 senators 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. Weve 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 dont
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. Its not just a research project. Its
making sure that people who need medical care will get it, Levin said.
Tom Scotto, president of the Detectives 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
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