World Trade Center Health Effects: Finding the Links

World Trade Center Health Effects: Finding the Links
December 7th, 2009

Dana Farrington filed this report from City Hall.

Impatience was contagious in City Hall today as three City Council committees heard from concerned parties about the World Trade Center Medical Working Group’s second annual report, released in September. Of particular concern was a bill, currently stalled in the U.S. Senate health committee, which would provide long-term medical care for those affected by the World Trade Center collapse — mentally and physically — and worries over which side effects would not be covered in the meantime.

Before the hearing, a man in a full Fire Department captain uniform sat quietly in the front row. The retired captain, John Gallagher, had arrived at the trade center site in the afternoon after the attacks and spent the next 30 hours on duty, followed by another three months of working full time at Ground Zero. He now has pulmonary fibrosis and breathes through an oxygen tank, which sat next to him inside a black rolling suitcase. Though he receives full funding for his medical care because the government has recognized the dust and other hazards at the trade center caused his illness, he said he had come to the hearing to fight for those who are not covered. Among his concerns were people with cancers, such as thyroid and kidney cancers, whose illnesses were not recognized under current coverage programs.

Councilmember Domenic Recchia raised his voice and temper over the report’s assertion that cancer is not directly related to the disaster. “I hope your next report says there is a link,” Recchia said.

In response, Tamuri Mammo, of the Office of the Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services Linda Gibbs, stated that the only known study linking cancer to the World Trade Center attacks was “notable” and could spark further research but was not alone sufficient to prove that people exposed to the site’s hazards could get cancer as a result.

Also up for discussion was the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2009, introduced by Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand in July. The council currently has a resolution drafted in support of this resolution, but it has not yet passed it. Councilmember Gail Brewer said she did not understand the cause for delay in care to those in need. “I don’t get it,” she said.

“We’re going to continue to fight for this legislation,” said Mammo, but he also mentioned that a bigger push would be needed after health reform.

John Feal, founder of the nonprofit Feal Good Foundation and a first responder who lost half of his left foot when it was crushed by a steel beam during clean up of the World Trade Center site. His group organized advocates to go to D.C. and “educate” legislatures about the issue and the resolution. Feal also worried that the resolution would not move until larger health reform takes place.

The newest report from the working group is a review of current literature and studies related to 9/11 health and the continued effects felt by people who worked at the sited or s nearby. The report states that the World Trade Center Health Registry, which has been following a sample of potentially affected individuals since 2001, found that 10 percent of participants in the study were diagnosed with asthma after 9/11. The report also cites evidence of “sustained and late-emerging post traumatic stress,” (nearly one in five had symptoms in that study). Furthermore, “Several newly published studies suggest that WTC-related mental and physical health conditions often can occur together, and in fact, 10 to 25 percent of people currently being treated by the WTC Centers of Excellence are being treated for both mental and physical health conditions.”


Do these people deserve to know how and why their loved ones were murdered? The facts speak for themselves.