Residents and Workers Want to Meet With 9/11 Health Czar

New Yorkers claiming illness from 9/11-related exposures to toxic smoke and dust want 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, 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 three-fold 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 4 and a half years after 9/11, residents, school children and office workers claim they do not have access to appropriate monitoring and treatment. The result is that, as their conditions worsen, many go undiagnosed or receive inadequate care. Low-income residents, low-wage workers, new immigrants and people who are uninsured appear to be at a special disadvantage, advocates claim.

At a recent 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.

"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," said Kelly Colangelo, a downtown resident who claims to be sick from WTC exposures. "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."

Craig Hall is president of the WTC Residents Coalition, which represents 30,000 Lower Manhattan residents. He complains that 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 it's not surprising that people are sick," says Hall. "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."

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