Representatives Joseph Crowley and Steve Israel are calling for Congress to pass a bill that would provide $90 million for medical screening and monitoring for the people who worked at the World Trade Center cleanup.
Crowley, of Jackson Heights, who represents the 6th District, and Israel from Bayshore, who represents the 2nd, are asking the House Appropriations Committee to take on the language of a bill in the Senate, which includes financial aid for medical screening of Ground Zero workers. The senators from New York, Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton, were responsible for including the funding in the Senate’s bill.
The proposal of $90 million for medical screening and monitoring is part of a larger bill in the Senate that includes such items as additional foreign aid to Israel and funding for other issues related to September 11th.
Crowley and Israel held a press conference in front of the HazMat 1/Squad 288 firehouse in Maspeth, which lost 19 men in the World Trade Center attacks.
“New York and the nation owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the hardworking men at HazMat 1/Squad 288 and all the men and women of the New York Fire Department, Police Department, EMTs and the many others who worked in the dangerous wreckage of the World Trade Center,” Crowley said. “Unfortunately, because of the hazardous conditions there, long-term health concerns are very real.
“It is important that any health problems that exist now are documented so that a worker can receive appropriate and timely treatment and compensation.”
The funding would expand initial health screenings to 18,000 FDNY, NYPD, EMTs and volunteers from the current 8,500 who have been screened. The program will also provide follow-up examinations a year after the initial test and then every five years after that for the next 20 years.
Don Faeth, vice president of the Uniformed EMTs and Paramedics for the New York City Fire Department, indicated that the lack of proper documentation of workers at Ground Zero is a cause for concern.
“A lot of people went in on their days off, or people who were on medical leave. People were just putting on their uniforms and going to work,” he said. “The tracking (of workers) wasn’t very good.”
Because there was a lack of monitoring of who was going in to work at Ground Zero, it is difficult for medical officials to know exactly how many people might have suffered an ailment because of the noxious gases at the site and who might suffer from future ailments.
Although a full report on what kind of gases might have been in the air at Ground Zero is still not completed, the presence of a high level of asbestos has been expected. Exposure to this can lead to respiratory problems such as asthma.
Because firefighters are working at numerous potentially dangerous sites with an assortment of noxious gases, it is important that officials can prove that any ailments they are suffering from are a result of their work at Ground Zero. It is also important that people who worked at the cleanup, allow themselves to be checked and monitored.
“We hope (that they get screened) because it is not only important to themselves, but also to their co-workers,” Crowley said.
The federal government would be working in conjunction with Mount Sinai Hospital and the Centers for Disease Control which would be responsible for maintaining the examination schedule and records for at least 20 years.
John Dunne, captain of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association of New York City, praised the bill.
“We are very concerned about the long-term problems caused by Ground Zero,” he said. “This will go a long way to putting away some of these fears.”
Israel believes it is imperative to provide the timely response toward the workers’ health care, just as they provided timely response to the cleanup of the World Trade Center disaster area.
“This is not a political deal or a partisan deal, we’re just talking about money that can help everyone,” he said.