Tuesday, March 30, 2004

The Forgotten Victims of 9/11

Forgotten among the thousands who died on 9/11 are the hundreds or more who helped rescue the victims and clean up the mess -- and are now still suffering the consequences, apparently without any notice, care or assistance from a government that told them the air was safe.
Hundreds of Ground Zero workers have lingering illnesses, but the government isn't paying for their care, said a leading doctor and two federal lawmakers.

Of 700 workers in a treatment program at Mount Sinai Medical Center, three-quarters still suffer from upper-respiratory problems brought on by work at the World Trade Center site, said Dr. Robin Herbert, co-director of the hospital's Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine. More than 40% suffer post-traumatic stress, said Herbert.

"The rates of symptoms we're seeing do not seem to be decreasing much," Herbert said. "The health problems we're seeing are serious and persistent." Herbert said the center is still analyzing data from its health screening of 9,229 workers, but an initial sampling of 250 showed half still have health issues.
Representatives Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan) and Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) have introduced legislation that would require the federal government to pay for their treatment.
"The lack of federal coordination, delays in funding, and total absence of aid for treatment shows a shameful neglect of 9/11 health issues in Washington," Maloney said. "We hope to change that with this legislation."

Herbert said that without government aid, many of the workers have no way of paying for their treatment.

"Many of our patients have become disabled," Herbert said. "They have no income, no health insurance and, in the absence of a philanthropically funded program, no way to get any care."
Vhristie Whitman was Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency on 9/11 and Newsday columnist Dennis Duggan thinks she might learn a lesson from Richard Clarke's apology:
Christie Whitman wasn't at City Hall yesterday. She was out among the horse set in Somerset County, behind the neatly trimmed hedges of her wealthy estate.

The people visiting City Hall yesterday were the walking wounded, the ones who believed her when she declared that the air at Ground Zero was safe to breathe just days after the Twin Towers were toppled.

Most of the people who believed her in September 2001 were numbed by attack. They wanted life to be as normal as possible.

So the apartment dwellers went in and cleaned up their homes, the kids went back to school, the Wall Streeters returned to work and the rescuers came down by the thousands to search for the living and the dead.

Whitman wasn't one of those at Ground Zero. At the time, she was in Washington, issuing her statement. "Our tests show that it is safe for New Yorkers to go back to work in New York's financial district," she said.
Of course it wasn't safe. EPA knew it didn't have enough information to state that it was safe, but the White House didn't think it was prudent to worry people. They had other concerns.

And, apparently they still do.