9/11 Sick & Injured Seek Help from President & Congress
Specifically, the group focused on the need for Congress and the President to 1) publicly acknowledge the long-term scope and diversity of 9/11 health impacts, 2) extend the World Trade Center Worker & Volunteer Medical Monitoring Program, 3) provide safety-net health treatment for those sick and injured from 9/11 but without adequate health insurance, and 4) 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.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said, “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. The high levels of respiratory illnesses , psychological conditions and other lasting health problems among WTC responders leave no doubt that a long-term medical monitoring program is critically needed, as well as safety-net health care coverage for all 9/11 responders and area residents. In addition, for those with late-onset and long-term illness, the Victim Compensation Fund must be made available. Denying rescue workers and others the help they need just because their illness developed after an arbitrary deadline is unfair and wrong. Until the 9/11 sick and injured get the help they need, we will keep pushing for a full and adequate federal response.”
Congressman Jerrold Nadler said, “The EPA failed to protect thousands of people’s health following the attacks on 9/11, and now a great many are sick. 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.”
Dr. Stephen Levin, MD, Medical Director of the Mount Sinai Center for Occupational & Environmental Medicine, said, “We continue to see people with serious and persistent upper respiratory, lower respiratory, mental health and other effects - even to this day. Much more remains critically needed to support the comprehensive evaluation and treatment of World Trade Center responders, and others,” he adds, “- all those who today and possibly in the future find themselves seriously ill as a result of the September 2001 terrorist attacks.”
Kevin Mount, a member of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 15, described his experience, saying, “The injuries I sustained during the rescue, recovery and clean-up of 9/11 are numerous. Due to the overwhelming amount of dust, smoke and toxic chemicals released after the collapse of the WTC, the paper dust mask which was all the protection given me proved to be useless. As a result of my exposure, I became quite sick and in February 2002 I required hospitalization. Soon after, I was diagnosed with Restrictive Airway Disease, Hepatitis C, Sinusitis, and Gastric Reflux Disease. 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.”
Suzanne Mattei, New York City Executive for the Sierra Club, said, “The Sierra Club strongly supports the leadership of Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler on legislation to get medical services to the people who were exposed to toxic 9/11 pollution. Early detection and treatment can help people beat many harmful diseases caused by pollution. These workers and residents deserve that chance.”
Kimberly Flynn, Executive Director of 9/11 Environmental Action, said, “When we press the EPA to take the lead in protecting the public throughout the demolition of the massively contaminated 130 Liberty St. building, we are demanding that every measure be taken to prevent further disease in a community that has already been hit hard. When we call for a federally funded comprehensive medical monitoring and treatment program for residents and office workers, as well as for first responders, we are simply asking the federal government to honor its duty to meet the urgent health needs of ALL those that came under attack on 9/11, those who suffer now and those who may fall ill in the future.”
Joel Shufro, Executive Director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, said, “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, we must make certain that no one is exposed to that toxic material in the future. There are at lease three buildings near the World Trade Center that must be demolished because they were so badly contaminated on 9/11. 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 It is essential that the 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.”
Additional participants in today’s event included: Patricia Baker, Vice-President and Shawn Bobb, Occupational Safety and Health Specialist, New York State Public Employees Federation; John Dunne, Uniformed Fire Officers Association; Philip McArdle, Uniformed Firefighters Association; Edward Marcowitz, of the Law Firm Barash McGarry Salzman & Penson; Stan Mark, Esq., Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund; Robert Gulack, NY Office, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission; Cecil Martinez, Detectives Endowment Association; Michael P. Kelly, New York State Laborers; Battalion Chief Vincent Sweeney; Fire Captain Dean Marino; Firefighter Christopher D'owd; Firefighter James DeStasio; Firefighter Philip D'Agostino; and Joel Kupferman, New York Law and Environmental Justice Project.
Maloney's office has compiled a summary of recent medical findings about ongoing 9/11 health effects, which can be accessed here.
To address the medical and compensation needs of all individuals sick or injured from 9/11, two pieces of legislation will be introduced immediately in the 109th Congress, the “Remember 9/11 Health Act” and the “Victims Compensation Fund Extension Act."
The “Remember 9/11 Health Act” contains four main points:
I. Providing Treatment - Modeled after a program that provides health insurance for injured volunteer forest firefighters, this bill provides federal health insurance to individuals suffering injuries and/or health problem as a result of the September 11th Terrorist Attacks. Recipients do not pay for any health care expenses, including prescription drugs and co-payments. This program also includes mental health coverage.
II. Expanding Health Monitoring - Maintains current program, including the separate program for the Fire Department, while expanding it to a level recommended by the public health community.
III. Research - Directs the National Institute of Health to conduct or support diagnostic and treatment research for health conditions that are associated with the exposure to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
IV. Coordination - Establishes the 9/11 Health Emergency Coordinating Council under the direction of the Department of Health and Human Services for the purpose of discussing, examining, and formulating recommendations for the adequacy and coordination of the Federal Government, State government, local governments response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The “Victims Compensation Fund Extension Act” would:
• Amend eligibility rules so that responders to the 9/11 attacks who arrived later than the first 96 hours could be eligible if they experienced illness or injury from their work at the site.
• Amend eligibility rules so that those who did not seek immediate medical verification for their illness or injury from the disaster, but who have since obtained medical evidence, would be eligible.
• Extend the deadline for applications to allow those with either late-onset illness from the disaster or those who were never informed of their eligibility for the Victim Compensation Fund to consider applying.
Together, these pieces of legislation would close the largest gaps in the federal response to individuals who have become sick or injured from 9/11. Beyond the push for this legislation, today’s group of New York leaders spoke on the need for a fully coordinated and accountable federal involvement in 9/11 environmental clean-up efforts, 9/11 health services and research programs, and 9/11 compensation programs. Collectively, the group pledged to carry that message to Congress and the President, through the trip many embarked on today to Washington, D.C. and through additional efforts throughout the months ahead, until more adequate federal involvement is achieved.