What has happened to the rescue workers from 9/11?
Over several months, approximately 40,000 rescue workers helped at Ground Zero, and all were exposed to caustic dust and toxic pollutants. The workers included firefighters, police officers as well as a wide variety of construction, utility and public sector workers.
The largest health study ever conducted of rescue and recovery workers was done by Mount Sinai School of Medicine. They examined 9,442 responders between July 2002 and April 2004. Of those examined, 69% reported new or worsened respiratory symptoms since working at ground zero. Among the workers that had not had any health issues before 9/11, 61% had developed respiratory symptoms. Twenty-eight percent had abnormal spirometry (meaning the measuring of breath); 21% were low in forced vital capacity (FVC) (maximum volume of air that a person can exhale); and obstruction was present in 5%. Among nonsmokers, 27% had abnormal spirometry compared with 13% in the general U.S. population. Prevalence of low FVC among nonsmokers was 5 times greater than in the U.S. population (20% vs. 4%). Respiratory symptoms and spirometry abnormalities were significantly associated with early arrival at the site.
The frequency of sarcoidosis or Bensnier-Boeck disease, an immune system disorder characterized by non-caseating granulomas (small inflammatory nodules), was increased among FDNY rescue workers by 47%, compared to firefighters 15 years before the 9/11.
WTC responders had exposure-related increases in respiratory symptoms and pulmonary function tests abnormalities that persisted up to 2.5 years after the attacks. Long term medical monitoring is required to track persistence of these abnormalities and identify late effects, including possible malignancies.
What Were the Exposures?
The thousands of tons of toxic debris resulting from the collapse of the Twin Towers consisted of more than 2,500 contaminants, more specifically: 50% non-fibrous material and construction debris; 40% glass and other fibers; 9.2% cellulose; and 0.8% asbestos, lead, and mercury. There were also unprecedented levels of dioxin and PAHs from the fires which burned for three months.
So what about health care from the government?
Rescue workers that are sick or injured as a result of working at Ground Zero are finding it much harder to receive compensation than the average injured worker.
The Bush Administration has continuously promised more money to help ease the burden, but have consistently taken the money out of the budget. In 2006 $125 million was taken back.
International Association of Fire Fighters General President Harold Schaitberger issued a statement on President Bush’s proposed Fiscal Year 2009 budget, “President Bush says he wants to protect Americans, but his budget proposal proves his words are meaningless. Once again, he has proposed eliminating or drastically reducing funding” http://www.iaff.org/08News/020508Bush.htm
These selfless individuals rose up in the time of need to help others. Now their health, jobs and lives are being compromised because of their bravery. If the government isn’t going to provide compensation for these people for basic health care then it is necessary that we rise up and come to their aid.
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