Downtown Residents and Office Workers, 9/11 Environmental Action, WTC Residents Coalition, and Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund Call on Newly Appointed Federal 9/11 Health Czar for Monitoring and Treatment of WTC-Related Illnesses
New York, NY—Today, New Yorkers sick from their 9/11-related exposures to toxic smoke and dust, and community advocates, called on Dr. John Howard, the newly appointed federal 9/11 health czar for a federally-funded comprehensive program to track and treat emergent 9/11-related illnesses in the community. In addition, they called for Dr. Howard to come to New York City and meet with sick residents and workers, environmental medicine experts and community advocates.
The 9/11 health impact on the community has been widespread and many people, including children, are chronically ill. One study (Reibman, et al) has found a more-than-threefold increase in new onset asthmas and other respiratory illnesses among downtown residents. Another study (Szema, et al.) has demonstrated worsening asthma among children living within a 5-mile radius from Ground Zero.
Yet, more than four and a half years after 9/11, residents, school children and office workers still do not have access to appropriate monitoring and treatment. As a result, their conditions worsen, many go undiagnosed or receive inadequate care. Low-income residents, low-wage workers, new immigrants—people who are uninsured—are at a special disadvantage.
At yesterdays Congressional hearing, environmental medicine specialists once again stressed that it is essential to detect 9/11-related health effects early so as to prevent or significantly lessen the severity of chronic disease.
Kelly Colangelo, a downtown resident sick from WTC exposures, stated: “We are the victims in waiting, who’ve been swept under the rug and ignored by the government that did not protect us, but misled us about the toxic pollution in the air, and also in our homes and offices. We hear about Homeland Security, but this administration needs to get its priorities in order and its first priority should be to take care of its own people. We hope that Dr. John Howard will be allowed to do his job.”
Years have gone by with little progress in addressing residents medical needs. While residents on the average may have been exposed at lower levels, the WTC smoke and dust have proven to be very harmful and its not surprising that people are sick. Now, as first responders and WTC site cleanup workers fall ill and die from their exposures, it is even more critical that Dr. John Howard act immediately to address 9/11 health effects in residents and children. He should start by coming to New York to meet with the affected communities.
— Craig Hall, President of the WTC Residents Coalition, representing 30,000 Lower Manhattan residents
Right now, on the community end, all that exists is a poor patchwork of small associations and struggling clinics and agencies. Its very clear-residents have been completely falling through the cracks. The federal government has got to step up, and Dr. Howard has got to get us the funding for the health care we need—to treat the symptoms were suffering from now and to monitor us for cancers and other diseases that could develop down the line.
— Linda Belfer, sick Battery Park City resident
People who work in Lower Manhattan have also been abandoned, according to Robert Gulack, Union Steward, representing the views of the bargaining unit at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission: As a union steward, I went to Mount Sinai to arrange medical screening for my colleagues at the SEC and was told that SEC employees could not be seen by the Mount Sinai program. We were federal employees. FEMA was assigned to arrange screening for federal employees, and never did. Nevertheless, because it was FEMA’s assigned job to look after us, Mount Sinai was barred from helping us. This is just one example of how area employees have been cut off from medical screening, and how the federal government, instead of helping, has actually gotten in the way and stopped people in the area from getting help. We hope that this situation is about to change.
Stanley Mark, Esq., Program Director at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) said: ”The Health Coordinator needs to understand that federal funds must be made available immediately for two priorities: to strengthen the public health system before any future attacks; and to adequately treat and track Chinatown and Lower East Side residents.”
The federal EPA failed to warn New Yorkers about the danger that they were in from the smoke and dust, so people have been living with health impacts that could have been avoided. Even now, the feds can act to curtail the extent of illness, by funding doctors who can connect the dots for people, like those in my community, who were told by the EPA and the City Health Department that their symptoms couldn’t be related to 9/11 and who have now have been cut out of yet another failed EPA cleanup plan.
—Barbara Caporale, Lower East Side resident and member of Rebuild with a Spotlight on the Poor (a coalition of 20 community-based organizations in Lower Manhattan)
There is an urgent need for a meaningful federal commitment to oversee and provide for the health needs of ALL of the people who were affected by 9/11: first responders, cleanup workers, office workers, students and residents. We need to help people who are sick now, and we need proper surveillance in place to alert us about long-term exposure effects, so that appropriate early treatment will be there when people need it. This is the responsibility of the federal government. We hope the appointment of Dr. Howard means that finally now well see some real action at the federal level.
— Kimberly Flynn, Co-Coordinator, 9/11 Environmental Action, an organization of downtown residents, school parents and environmental health advocates