World Trade Center Emergency Workers, Others Suffering From Ground Zero Toxins Could Be Helped by Proposed Law

Six years after the World Trade Center attacks, Congress if finally taking steps to help those dealing with chronic illnesses that stem from their exposure to toxic Ground Zero dust. Several New York City congressional representatives have introduced legislation that would provide health care for <"">World Trade Center emergency workers, volunteers and residents still suffering from the effects of the poisonous dust that blanketed Ground Zero and much Lower Manhattan following the attacks.

Representatives Caroline Maloney and Jerrold Nadler, both Democrats, and Vito Fosella, a Republican, have introduced the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. They say their bill would ensure that anyone who was exposed to toxic dust from Ground Zero has the right to be medically monitored and the right to health care if they are or become ill. Not only would the bill provide monitoring and treatment for World Trade Center first responders from the New York area, but the benefits would extend to the thousands of volunteers from around the country who assisted with rescue and recovery efforts. The bill would also provide the same benefits to thousands of New York City residents exposed to the toxic dust. Other provisions of the legislation would fund further research into World Trade Center-related illnesses and allow for the reopening of the September 11 Victims Compensation Fund so that people suffering illnesses related to Ground Zero toxins could receive financial assistance.

Already, the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act has garnered some important support. It is endorsed by the New York State AFL/CIO. And earlier this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that she would be supporting the legislation.

Many World Trade Center rescue workers and other people in the vicinity of the 9/11 attacks have been a reporting a host of health problems since the tragedy. A study by the Mt. Sinai Medical Center found that of 9,000 emergency workers, 70-percent had suffered some type of lung ailment after the attacks, and that 60-percent still faced respiratory problems. In May the FDNY reported that cases of the rare lung disease sarcoidosis had risen dramatically among firefighters and EMS workers who had spent time at Ground Zero. And the New York City Department of Health recently found that one in eight first responders still suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Even children have not been immune from the effects of the deadly dust, as a recent report said that of 3,100 children enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Registry; nearly half had developed breathing problems three years after the attack.

But help for these people has been slow to come, as they have been forced to prove that their illnesses stem from toxic World Trade Center Dust. For instance, many rescue worker have not had access to workers compensation insurance. According to the New York State Compensation Board, the denial rate for workers compensation claims filed by World Trade Center rescuers is 76 percent higher than for other claims. Unable to work, many of these heroes must now struggle with financial problems along with their health woes. If the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act becomes law, these victims might finally see an end to some of their struggles.

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