Illness Persisting in 9/11 Workers, Big Study Finds


Richard Moore


Here we see a good example of something that appears to be an 'expose', but 
which is in fact a cover-up.

The real truth, about 911 and health, is that the whole city was exposed to very
toxic dust particles from the collapsing towers.  Health problems are 
widespread, not just limited to workers at the site. And the issue is not just 
about health insurance, but about criminal liability on the part of city 
officials, who announced that 'the air is safe to breathe' in order to keep Wall
Street running smoothly. They actively encouraged people to expose themselves to
danger, rather than warning them to protect themselves with masks etc.

So now along comes the NY Times, giving us an interpretation that grossly 
narrows the extent of 'the problem', that similarly narrows the scope of 
remedies we should consider, and which implies the problem is now 'being 



Original source URL:

September 6, 2006

Illness Persisting in 9/11 Workers, Big Study Finds

The largest health study yet of the thousands of workers who labored at ground 
zero shows that the impact of the rescue and recovery effort on their health has
been more widespread and persistent than previously thought, and is likely to 
linger far into the future.

The study, released yesterday by doctors at Mount Sinai Medical Center, is 
expected to erase any lingering doubts about the connection between dust from 
the trade center and numerous diseases that the workers have reported suffering.
It is also expected to increase pressure on the federal government to provide 
health care for sick workers who do not have health insurance.

Roughly 70 percent of nearly 10,000 workers tested at Mount Sinai from 2002 to 
2004 reported that they had new or substantially worsened respiratory problems 
while or after working at ground zero.

The rate is similar to that found among a smaller sample of 1,100 such workers 
released by Mount Sinai in 2004, but the scale of the current study gives it far
more weight; it also indicates significant problems not reflected in the 
original study.

For example, one-third of the patients in the new study showed diminished lung 
capacity in tests designed to measure the amount of air a person can exhale. 
Among nonsmokers, 28 percent were found to have some breathing impairment, more 
than double the rate for nonsmokers in the general population.

The study is among the first to show that many of the respiratory ailments ‹ 
like sinusitis and asthma, and gastrointestinal problems related to them ‹ 
initially reported by ground zero workers persisted or grew worse in the years 
after 9/11.

Most of the ground zero workers in the study who reported trouble breathing 
while working there were still having those problems up to two and a half years 
later, an indication that the illnesses are becoming chronic and are not likely 
to improve over time. Some of them worked without face masks, or with flimsy 
ones. ³There should no longer be any doubt about the health effects of the World
Trade Center disaster,² said Dr. Robin Herbert, co-director of Mount Sinai¹s 
World Trade Center Worker and Volunteer Medical Screening Program. ³Our patients
are sick, and they will need ongoing care for the rest of their lives.²

Dr. Herbert called the findings, which will be published tomorrow in 
Environmental Health Perspectives, the journal of the National Institute of 
Environmental Health Sciences, ³very worrisome,² especially because 40 percent 
of those who went to Mount Sinai for medical screening did not have health 
insurance, and will thus not get proper medical care. The Mount Sinai results 
found, as studies done by the New York City Fire Department also have, that 
those who showed up in the first hours and days after the twin towers collapsed 
have the worst medical problems. Seventy percent of the workers in the study 
arrived at the site between Sept. 11 and Sept. 13.

Mount Sinai¹s screening and monitoring program, which excludes New York 
firefighters, who are tested in a separate program, run by the New York Fire 
Department, covers law enforcement officers, transit workers, telecommunications
workers, volunteers and others who worked at ground zero and at the Fresh Kills 
landfill, where debris was taken.

Members of the New York Congressional delegation, who have been fighting to get 
the federal government to recognize the scope of the health problem created by 
toxic materials at ground zero, saw the Mount Sinai study as proof that the 
federal government has been too slow to address the issue.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who participated in the news conference at Mount
Sinai yesterday morning, along with Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn 
B. Maloney, said that the results made the need for federal assistance for 
treatment more critical than ever.

³This study, I hope, puts to rest any doubt about what is happening to those who
were exposed,² said Mrs. Clinton, who was among those who pushed for $52 million
in federal funding for health treatment for the ground zero workers, the first 
treatment money provided by the Bush administration. ³This report underscores 
the need for continued long-term monitoring and treatment options ‹ they go hand
in hand,² she said.

Several members of the delegation are scheduled to meet in Washington tomorrow 
morning with Michael O. Levitt, the secretary of the Department of Health and 
Human Services, to press for more aid.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, speaking at a news conference at City Hall 
yesterday, questioned the conclusiveness of the study, saying that statistics 
could suggest a connection between events, but not prove a direct link.

³I don¹t believe that you can say specifically a particular problem came from 
this particular event,² he said. Nonetheless, Mr. Bloomberg announced that the 
city would create a screening and treatment program for anyone exposed to the 
trade center dust or fumes.

The Mount Sinai study, released yesterday, which covers 9,442 workers who met 
the screening program¹s eligibility criteria and agreed to have their health 
data included, focused on respiratory problems because doctors believe those 
illnesses are the first to surface. Of those studied, 46.5 percent reported 
symptoms like chest tightness, shortness of breath and dry cough that generally 
affect the lower airways of the lungs.

And 62.5 percent reported upper-respiratory symptoms like sinusitis and nose and
throat irritations. (The study did not include cases of cancer reported by 
workers and their relatives.)

The doctors said that the persistent nature of the respiratory symptoms raised 
troubling questions about the workers¹ long-term health. Dr. Philip J. 
Landrigan, a founder of the screening program at Mount Sinai and an author of 
the new study, said that the toxic nature of the trade center dust had led 
doctors to conclude that there would be serious health issues for years to come,
especially for workers who were exposed to the heaviest concentrations in the 
early days after the terrorist attack.

³This was extremely toxic dust,² Dr. Landrigan said, noting that some samples 
showed the dust to be as caustic as drain cleaner. The dust also contained 
innumerable tiny shards of glass, which could get lodged in the lungs, and a 
stew of toxic and carcinogenic substances, like asbestos and dioxin, that could 
potentially lead to cancer decades from now.

With the expanding dimensions of 9/11 health problems, concern is also growing 
about the cost of health care for responders, particularly the 40 percent who 
either never had health insurance or who lost employer-provided coverage after 
they became too sick to work.

Dr. Landrigan declined to estimate what the total cost might be, saying only ³it
will be very expensive.²

Dr. John Howard, who was named the federal 9/11 health coordinator in February, 
has already said that the $52 million the federal government has appropriated 
for treatment late last year is inadequate. He said in an interview yesterday 
that the new study will very likely mean that the gap between funds and the need
for them is going to grow.

But he said the solid medical data from Mount Sinai would help him make the case
that more needs to be done. He said that there was little doubt that if a third 
of the people in the study showed abnormal breathing, similar problems exist 
among the entire population of 40,000 rescue and recovery workers.

³These are just the kind of facts that are important in making a logical 
argument that the funding needs to be adjusted,² said Dr. Howard, who is also 
the director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Mount Sinai officials said they would release a study of mental health effects 
on ground zero workers soon. They also are planning to begin a statistical 
program this fall to examine the occurrence of cancer, lung diseases and other 
ailments among that group. That information will then be compared to national 
rates to see if there is a higher-than-expected incidence of those diseases.

Diane Cardwell contributed reporting for this article.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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