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Town Hall Forum Demands Action on 9/11 Health Crisis

by Jonathan Bennett

Residents, office workers, and students spoke out at a Forum with medical experts about the unmet health needs of 9/11 and launch a drive for federal action to address these health needs at a Town Hall Meeting on September 7, at St. Paul’s Chapel (Broadway between Fulton & Vesey Streets).

The sponsors, led by 9/11 Environmental Action, seek a federally funded program to screen, track, and treat 9/11-related illnesses in those who lived, worked and attended school in Lower Manhattan and other affected neighborhoods.

The health impact of 9/11 on the community has been widespread and many people, including children, are suffering. One study (Reibman, et al.) has found a threefold increase in the onset of 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 five years after 9/11, residents, students, and office workers still do not have access to appropriate monitoring and treatment. As a result, their health worsens, and many illnesses go undiagnosed or receive inadequate care.

“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.” Kelly Colangelo, a downtown resident, said. “This administration needs to get its priorities in order, and its first priority should be to take care of its own people.”

“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” said Kimberly Flynn, Co-Coordinator, 9/11 Environmental Action, an organization of downtown residents, school parents and environmental health advocates. “It is the responsibility of the federal government to take care of the people who are currently sick and to have a plan for addressing long-term exposure effects.”

“Tens of thousands of office workers returned to work near Ground Zero beginning six days after the Twin Towers collapsed. Some quickly developed severe respiratory problems, while others much later are becoming ill. We need medical screening and treatment now from physicians familiar with the health effects of 9/11,“ said Paul Stein, Health and Safety Chair of Public Employees Federation, Div. 199.

The panel of speakers, moderated by New York Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez, includes David M. Newman, Industrial Hygienist, NYCOSH, Dr. Joan Reibman, Professor of Medicine, NYU Medical Center and Director of Bellevue Hospital WTC Health Impacts Clinic, and Dr. Jacqueline Moline, Principal Investigator, Mount Sinai World Trade Center Monitoring and Treatment Program. Dr. John Howard, Director of NIOSH and Federal Coordinator of 9/11 Health Programs will also participate.

Jonathan Bennett is the Public Affairs Director, New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, 116 John Street, Suite 604, New York NY 10038, Tel: 212-227-6440 ext. 14, Fax: 212-227-9854

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