Health Status of World Trade Center Disaster Workers, Volunteers to be Evaluated

The Mt. Sinai School of Medicine has received a $11.4 million contract from the Department of Health and Human Services to determine if rescue and recovery workers and volunteers who worked at the World Trade Center disaster site are experiencing related illnesses or injuries.

It is estimated that the program will provide screenings to at least 8,500 workers and volunteers who toiled at the World Trade Center site. Workers will receive a report from the results, and general, de-identified information about the screenings will be shared with industry, labor, and government to help identify potential trends in health effects.

"These men and women demonstrated true heroism in their efforts to help this city at its darkest hour," said Dr. Kenneth Berns, CEO and president of the Mt. Sinai Medical Center. "It is our duty to do everything we can to ensure they do not suffer lasting health effects as a result of their selfless acts."

The contract will fund free standardized clinical examinations to workers and volunteers involved in Ground Zero rescue and cleanup efforts. Under the contract, which will be administered by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Mt. Sinai School of Medicine and a consortium of occupational health clinics in New York, New Jersey and other locations will provide the examinations to eligible workers and volunteers.

"The workers and volunteers at the World Trade Center site set a standard for courage and dedication that will never be forgotten," said HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson. "We want to make sure that their heroic service does not have long-term health consequences, and these screening examinations will be essential to that effort."

The goal of the project is to help employers and public health professionals identify symptoms, injuries or conditions that may indicate long-term illness as a result of work at the World Trade Center, so that interventions can be pursued. The contract will also pay for Mt. Sinai to compile a database of the findings, allowing researchers to assess potential occupational illness and injury patterns among the workers, and provide data for future studies where health changes over time can be identified and addressed.

The examinations will focus on identifying health problems most likely to occur as a result of work at or near the World Trade Center site. These include potential respiratory effects, musculoskeletal disorders, chronic effects from injuries at the site and mental health conditions.

"Mt. Sinai is one of the pre-eminent occupational health institutions in the world," said new NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D., M.P.H., J.D., LL.M., "We are pleased to enlist its technical expertise for a project that will serve the country well for decades to come."

Mt. Sinai's Irving J. Selikoff Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine will be the center leading the examinations. The other participating occupational health clinical centers are the Bellevue/New York University Occupational and Environmental Medicine Clinic; the State University of New York's Stony Brook/Long Island Occupational and Environmental Health Center; the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems at Queens College in New York; and the Clinical Center of the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, N.J.

For information on the screening program or to sign-up, contact Mt. Sinai at (888) 702-0630.

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