Press Release

Residents, Workers, Students, and First-Responders Demand Presidential Candidates Make 9/11 Health a National Priority

 
 

Denounce 7 years of Bush and Congressional failure to respond to the 9/11 health crisis

Press Conference

Sunday, September 7th, 1 p.m.

Foley Square (Worth St. between Lafayette and Centre St.)

Ground Zero clean-up workers, first responders, volunteers, Lower Manhattan workers and residents, joined by representatives from the Beyond Ground Zero Network, are demanding Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain make 9/11 health a national priority and provide treatment, monitoring and study for all those sick. Over 400,000 workers, residents, students and first responders exposed to lethal toxic air after 9/11 are still waiting for federal support 7 years later.

Today, countless thousands who were exposed to the toxic fallout after 9/11 are sick and getting sicker. They suffer from a wide range of illnesses beyond upper respiratory problems. Many are now being diagnosed with lung disease, neurological disorders, gynecological problems and cancers. Women’s health has especially been hit hard — suffering a wide range of gynecological and reproductive health problems including breast and uterine cancer and heavy bleeding. Many workers are so sick, in fact, that they can no longer work or support their families.

The federal government has never acknowledged the extent and scope of the 9/11 toxic fallout. The Bush Administration from the beginning steadfastly refused to comprehensively study the health impact of the 9/11 toxic fallout, and instead lied that the air was safe. As a result, treatment and study has not kept pace with the evolving and worsening health problems affecting residents and workers. There is growing concern that if the current studies are the only basis for entitlement to 9/11 health treatment, then that treatment will come too late for many.

“We can’t wait for the studies to tell us we’re sick. We know we’re sick because of 9/11. We are the proof that the air was toxic, and we can’t put limits on treatment for those who are affected.” says Celia Correa, a former downtown worker and spokesperson for Beyond Ground Zero.

Despite the failure of the federal government, there has been some study by researchers in New York that substantiates workers and residents’ self-reporting of post-9/11 symptoms. Studies and data analysis by Dr. Joan Reibman of Bellevue Hospital Center and staff at Gouveneur Hospital, two of the three City-funded WTC Environmental Health Centers, show that a disproportionate number of people living and working in Lower Manhattan to as far north as 14th Street are suffering from respiratory and mental health symptoms.

At a press briefing just last week, the City of New York called for federal funding for treatment of existing and emerging 9/11-related illnesses as well as for more study. The City acknowledged that the self-reported 9/11-related symptoms from patients in the WTC Environmental Health Centers correlate closely to those of sick FDNY firefighters who have baseline, pre-9/11 medical histories.

Stan Mark, senior staff attorney at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, says, “The City’s briefing confirms what residents and workers have been saying and reporting to their doctors all along — that they are still ill from 9/11. There is also concern that many more may suffer from emerging illnesses in the future. They also recognize that many residents and workers who were exposed are not going to the few Centers of Excellence in the area but remain untreated or undiagnosed.”

Bush and his supporters in Congress want to continue to cover up the extent of this national scandal by denying lifelong treatment to non-first responders. Proposed legislation sponsored by Congressman Nadler in 2006 had covered all those affected. However, political compromise in Washington has whittled away the possibility of comprehensive health treatment, and threatens to deny thousands of sick first responders, workers, and residents the lifelong treatment they need to fully recover. For the first time now, federal funding is marked to go towards treatment programs for non-first responders that suffer from 9/11 illnesses. Yet Bush’s Center for Disease Control is poised to block this funding from the only existing treatment program for non-first responders, the city-funded WTC Environmental Health Center, or the “Bellevue” program. National leadership on 9/11 health crisis is long overdue.

April Herms, community development coordinator at the Urban Justice Center and Beyond Ground Zero spokesperson, says, “The federal government must take responsibility for its misinformation and misconduct in the aftermath of 9/11 and provide lifelong, quality and accessible treatment for all those affected as well as a comprehensive study into the connections between our health problems and the 9/11 toxic air. If we are ever to rebuild our city, we must start with restoring the health of its residents and workers.”

The Beyond Ground Zero Network will be issuing an open letter to the Presidential candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain, to demand they provide the bold leadership needed to finally acknowledge and address the 9/11 health crisis.

For more information:
Stanley Mark
Senior Staff Attorney
212.966.5932 ext. 204
smark@aaldef.org