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House Committee Rejects Maloney's Amendments to Help 9/11 Responders

The leaders of the House Rules Committee have rejected amendments to the Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act for 2006 that would have directed the federal government to respond adequately to the extensive health needs of thousands of 9/11 responders, and improved the federal response to first responder health needs after potential future national disasters and terrorist attacks.

"Congress is once again neglecting the ongoing health needs of 9/11 responders in the face of clinical evidence that widespread, long-term illness from Ground Zero continues," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who sponsored the amendments. "How long will the heroes of 9/11 be forced to suffer with no federal funds or program for their health treatment, before Congress stops neglecting this issue?"

Maloney's first amendment was based on HR 566, the Remember 9/11 Health Act, a bill she introduced with Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Ct.) that would provide medical monitoring and treatment for individuals who are sick or injured as a direct result of the attacks of 9/11.

Maloney's second amendment would have established a framework for medical monitoring programs for responders following certain major disasters where the health of responders is at risk. The amendment is modeled after the Disaster Area Health and Environmental Monitoring Act, HR 5329, introduced in the 108th Congress by Maloney and Shays. The legislation was offered by Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) in the Senate and was passed by unanimous consent.

"Our federal government has a duty to help the people who were on the front line in the World Trade Center disaster to recover from the pollution impact of the September 11th attack, and we thank Rep. Maloney for her diligent efforts on this important issue," said Suzanne Mattei, New York City executive for the Sierra Club and author of its report, Pollution and Deception at Ground Zero.

"Contrary to popular misconception, the exposures to 9/11 pollution were not short-lived. The fires at Ground Zero burned for more than 3 months. Both the rescue/recovery workers and the people who lived and worked in the area inhaled those fumes," Mattei pointed out.

She noted the rescue/recovery workers labored in 12-hour shifts, and that some experienced 24-hour exposure because they volunteered after their regular shift and slept in nearby shelters. A Mount Sinai School of Medicine survey of over 1,000 Ground Zero workers found that half of them served over 950 hours.

"The dust was both toxic and caustic. It harmed the eyes, throat, lungs and stomach, and for many, the effects have been long-term," said Mattei. "The Living Heart Foundation found that, a year and a half after 9/11, over half of the police officers at Ground Zero that it studied still suffered from chronic coughing. The New York Times reported in mid-2004 that 645 firefighters had either been placed on medical leave or retired due to respiratory illness. Also, a Mount Sinai School of Medicine study found that pregnant women exposed to 9/11 pollution were twice as likely to give birth to babies a half-pound smaller than normal."

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