December 26, 2007
President Bush signed into law a spending bill for the 2008 fiscal year recently passed by Congress that includes more than $108 million in federal funding to address 9/11 health needs, more than double the amount first recommended by Congress prior to the Thanksgiving recess. As in the previous spending bill, a portion of these funds will be available to treat residents, area workers and other non-responders who were exposed to the World Trade Center (WTC) collapse.
The $108 million in new funding will go towards existing monitoring and treatment activities administered by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), including the WTC Medical Monitoring and Treatment Programs run by the Fire Department of New York and the Mount Sinai consortium. New York City will work with NIOSH to ensure that funding is also directed to the treatment of residents, area workers and other non-responders, many of whom are currently being treated at the WTC Environmental Health Center at Bellevue Hospital. Up to this point, the Bellevue Program has been funded entirely by the City and private philanthropy. This new federal funding is the first that is available to treat non-responders whose health was affected by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Read Mayor Bloomberg's statement
December 14, 2007
A national program to provide treatment for 9/11 rescue and recovery workers who live outside the New York metropolitan region is in doubt after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, canceled a request-for-contracts (RFC) for the World Trade Center Business Process Center. The WTC Business Process Center would have provided support in recruiting qualified physicians throughout the country and reimbursing them for treatment of rescue and recovery workers with 9/11-related illnesses.
According to a federal spokesperson quoted in press accounts, the agency cancelled the RFC because it was concerned that the program could cost up to $165 million and also because of the confusion that the RFC had created among potential bidders. Following these press accounts, several members of Congress from New York City protested the decision at a rally in front of Ground Zero. They also sent a letter to Michael O. Leavitt, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, expressing their concern.
The decision to cancel the request leaves a treatment gap also identified in a July 2007 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (PDF). The report recommended that "the Secretary of Health and Human Services expeditiously ensure that screening and monitoring services are available for (1) federal responders and (2) nonfederal responders residing outside the NYC area."
While the CDC decision casts doubt over the implementation of a national program, it does not affect the service that the thousands of recovery workers who live in the New York metropolitan region currently receive through the federally funded WTC Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program. Congress is currently considering FY08 appropriations for that program.
November 27, 2007
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released the first round of results from its Lower Manhattan Test and Clean Program. The Program, which covers the area south of Canal Street and west of Allen and Pike Streets, allows residents and building owners to have the air and dust in their units tested for contaminants associated with dust from the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings.
Under the Test and Clean Program, EPA is testing for four contaminants of potential concern -- asbestos, man-made vitreous fibers, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and lead. To date, EPA has analyzed 5600 samples, collected from 53 residential units and common areas, in nine buildings. The results found that:
Residents and buildings owners have been notified of these results, and the EPA is offering to clean all spaces in which levels exceeded the agency's benchmarks. Enrollment in the voluntary program ended earlier this year.
In addition, the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene will be contacting residents and building owners about ways to prevent lead poisoning. Affected residents and building owners will also receive an informational brochure on how to handle lead paint hazards (PDF).
EPA continues to test residential and commercial spaces in lower Manhattan, and will update its website as new findings become available.
November 16, 2007
The House of Representatives sustained President Bush's veto of a labor and health appropriations bill that included a provision of $52.5 million in federal funding for World Trade Center (WTC)-related health services. This money would, for the first time, have funded medical monitoring and treatment for residents, office workers, students and others who were exposed to the WTC disaster. Both houses of Congress must now rework the bill to reach a compromise with the White House.
To date, the only WTC-specific treatment for people other than rescue, recovery and clean-up workers at Ground Zero has been provided through a combination of private and New York City funding at the WTC Environmental Health Center. The WTC Environmental Health Center has treated more than 1,700 people at Bellevue Hospital and Gouverneur Healthcare Services in Manhattan, and Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, including a growing number of area office workers and New York City employees.
If signed into law, the $52.5 million appropriation would have continued to support the WTC Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program which provides services to nearly 36,000 rescue, recovery and clean-up workers at the Fire Department of New York, Mount Sinai and several other locations in the New York metropolitan area. In September 2007 John Howard, MD, Director of the National Institute on Occupational Safety and Health, which administers the program, testified (PDF) before the House that 7,603 rescue workers received treatment for aerodigestive conditions, such as asthma, interstitial lung disease, chronic cough, and gastro-esophageal reflux, and 4,868 were treated for mental health conditions.
November 16, 2007
Governor Eliot Spitzer recently signed legislation from the New York State Senate and Assembly that increases workers' compensation benefits for private hospital workers, specifically emergency medical technicians (EMT’s) and paramedics who were dispatched to Ground Zero in the immediate aftermath of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks. This legislation means that a small number of disabled paramedics who worked for private hospitals will receive comparable benefits as those distributed to their municipal counterparts.
The individuals eligible for the increase can now collect disability and death benefits equal to 75% of the wages they were earning on September 11, 2001. Before the passage of this bill, EMTs who worked for private hospitals received two-thirds of their average weekly wage up to a maximum of $400 per week. The institutions employing the EMTs will pay for the cost of this increase.
To be eligible for these new benefits a claim must have been filed with the workers' compensation board before October 31, 2007, the effective date of the act.
November 16, 2007
Beginning in November 2006 the Health Department sent follow-up surveys to all 71,000 individuals enrolled in the WTC Health Registry to learn more about their health status six years after the disaster. Recently, the Registry has given enrollees the option of completing the follow-up survey over the phone. Nearly two-thirds of enrollees have responded as of early November, however, the response rates have been weakest among residents below Canal Street, office workers, Spanish and Chinese speakers, and young adults. Adult enrollees who have not yet completed a follow-up survey will be contacted to complete or schedule their survey by telephone.
The follow-up survey will help determine to what extent physical and mental health conditions have persisted, and whether any new symptoms and conditions have emerged. An important goal of this survey is to identify and help address gaps in medical and mental health treatment.
WTC Health Registry enrollees who would like more information about the survey can call 1-866-692-9827 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
November 9, 2007
What have we learned about the health effects of 9/11? What are New York City agencies doing to learn more? How can affected people get the services they need? Get the latest on all of these issues at the second annual World Trade Center Health Registry public meeting and resource fair. The Lienhard School of Nursing at Pace University is co-sponsoring the event.
WHEN: Wednesday, November 28, from 5:30 - 8:30 p.m.
WHERE: Pace University's Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts, 3 Spruce Street in lower Manhattan
Auditorium capacity for this event is limited. Please RSVP to email@example.com or 212-442-1585.
November 9, 2007
Mayor Bloomberg has signed New York City Council legislation that increases the number of FDNY Pension Fund Medical Boards that can be convened to review disability retirement applications filed by firefighters. Currently, a single Medical Board comprising three members is responsible for determining if FDNY members have been disabled by their work and the level of their disability.
When signing the legislation, Mayor Bloomberg noted that “FDNY has experienced a dramatic increase in the number of disability retirement applications since the tragic events of September 11th and the Department expects the number of firefighters applying for disability retirement to increase in the future. In many cases, a retirement application takes more than a year to process, a delay that burdens both the retiring employee and the FDNY.”
To date, more than 800 FDNY and EMS members have received disability benefits as a result of their response to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. The majority of these disabilities are respiratory in nature.
Read the mayoral press release
November 14, 2007
Congress has approved $52.5 million in federal funding for monitoring and medical services that would, for the first time, include residents, office workers, students and others who were exposed to the World Trade Center (WTC) disaster. It is included in an appropriations bill for labor and health spending during the 2008 fiscal year.
President Bush, however, has vetoed the appropriations bill as currently written on the grounds that it authorizes an “irresponsible and excessive level of spending.” His request for $25 million to treat WTC responders in FY 2008 did not include residents. Congress, which does not have enough votes to override the President's veto, now must rework the bill to reach a compromise.
To date, the only WTC-specific treatment for these individuals has been provided through a combination of private and New York City funding at the WTC Environmental Health Center which has treated more than 1,600 people at Bellevue Hospital and Gouverneur Healthcare Services in Manhattan, and Elmhurst Hospital in Queens.
If signed into law, the $52.5 million appropriation would have continue to support the existing WTC Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program which already has provided services to nearly 36,000 rescue, recovery and clean-up workers at the Fire Department of New York, Mount Sinai and several other locations in the New York area. According to Congressional testimony (PDF) in September 2007 by John Howard, MD, Director of the National Institute on Occupational Safety and Health, which administers the program, 7,603 have received treatment for aerodigestive conditions, such as asthma, interstitial lung disease, chronic cough, and gastro-esophageal reflux, and 4,868 have been treated for mental health conditions.
October 19, 2007
The parents or guardians of just one in three children or adolescents who are enrolled in the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Registry have completed the follow-up survey that will help assess the impact of 9/11 on child health more than six years after the disaster. The follow-up surveys were mailed to 2,000 parents and guardians in May and June 2007. In comparison, 67% of adults responded to a similar survey about their health that concluded last year.
For a copy of the survey, call (866) 692-9827 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The survey will remain open through August 31, 2008.
Through telephone and e-mail contact, outreach and publicity, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is urging parents to complete this important survey. It can help answer important questions about how exposure to the collapse of the World Trade Center has affected child health, a subject that has received little study to date.
Parents of more than 3,000 children and adolescents completed the first Registry survey. It established that children under five had an increased likelihood of being diagnosed with asthma in the two to three years following the terrorist attacks.
The 2007-2008 child/adolescent survey, in combination with the follow-up adult survey, can help determine how long these symptoms have persisted (more than 1,000 Registry enrollees who were enrolled as children by their parents now have matured into adulthood). With their parents’ permission, children ages 11 and older can, for the first time, complete a section of the survey on their own, although parents also are asked to complete an additional section.
Parents are being asked to complete the follow-up survey even if their child feels fine. The information is important because it is the only ongoing study of children who were affected by 9/11. The experience also can engage the child in the work of the WTC Health Registry, one of the largest in America, which will track the health of 71,000 people, who now reside in all 50 states and 15 countries, for at least twenty years. Completing the survey takes only about 20 minutes and all information provided is kept confidential.
The survey covers both physical and mental health. It asks about health conditions that have emerged since the disaster, including coughing and asthma, as well as symptoms such as nightmares. The survey also asks about conditions at home shortly after the attacks, including the presence of dust and debris.
While many of those who suffered adverse effects from the attacks have improved or recovered, others appear to have persistent or worsening symptoms, including respiratory illness and serious psychological distress. There are still many unanswered questions, especially about children’s health and the results can be used to improve clinical care, especially for the youngest people caught in this or future disasters.
October 18, 2007
September 20, 2007
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) President Alan Aviles have announced that the World Trade Center (WTC) Environmental Health Center at Bellevue Hospital, the City-funded program offering free, high quality health services to people experiencing health problems as a result of 9/11, is expanding to two additional locations. The new sites, at Gouverneur Health Services in Lower Manhattan and Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, will allow the WTC Environmental Health Center to treat up to 20,000 patients over the next five years.
“The City is stepping up to the plate to make sure that everyone gets the health care they need - despite this clearly being a national responsibility,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “There is much about World Trade Center health effects that we still don't know, but one thing we do know is that 9/11 was an act of war against our entire country and the federal government must take responsibility for everyone whose health was harmed and pass the James Zadroga Act (PDF) I met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the attacks, and she stated her support for addressing these urgent and unmet health needs.”
“We've come to understand that while the passage of time does heal wounds, it also reveals them,” said HHC President Aviles. “The City's commitment of nearly $50 million will allow us to expand the WTC Environmental Health Center at Bellevue Hospital Center, to Gouverneur Healthcare Services in Lower Manhattan, and Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens. The Center's three sites will allow us to bring comprehensive assessment and specialty treatment to the people with symptoms from WTC exposures have not yet accessed care.”
The Mayor and President Aviles were joined at the announcement by Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and HHC Medical Director of WTC Services Dr. Joan Reibman.
Read the mayoral press release
September 20, 2007
June 4, 2009
August 29, 2007
Thousands of World Trade Center rescue and recovery workers were still suffering serious mental-health effects two to three years after the disaster. Findings released from the World Trade Center Health Registry show that one in eight rescue and recovery workers (12.4%) had posttraumatic stress disorder when they were interviewed in 2003 and 2004. Rates were highest among volunteer workers and lowest among police officers.
The new data come from the World Trade Center Health Registry's initial survey of nearly 30,000 rescue and recovery workers. The respondents ranged from police officers and firefighters to clergy and construction workers. The prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) varied significantly by occupation, with rates ranging from a low of 6.2% among police officers to 21.2% among civilian volunteers. The prevalence of PTSD in the U.S. population is roughly 4% at any given time.
Like the civilian volunteers, workers from non-emergency occupations such as construction, engineering and sanitation also suffered particularly high rates of PTSD. Besides lacking disaster training, which can help buffer psychological trauma, these workers most likely had not been desensitized by experience with previous emergencies. People who started work on or soon after 9/11, or who worked for longer periods, were also more vulnerable to PTSD.
"These findings confirm that 9/11 had lasting psychological consequences for many of those who responded to it," said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, New York City Health Commissioner. "Posttraumatic stress disorder can be devastating without treatment, affecting people's families and work lives and leading to substance-abuse problems. The registry helps us gauge the persistence of these issues over time. It also helps us inform the public and the medical community about the health effects of 9/11, so that people can get the best possible care."
August 27, 2007
Data drawn from the World Trade Center Health Registry shed new light on the health effects of exposure to dust and debris among workers who responded to the World Trade Center disaster on September 11, 2001. An article appearing in Environmental Health Perspectives (PDF) shows that 3.6% of the 25,000 rescue and recovery workers enrolled in the Registry report developing asthma after working at the site. That rate is 12 times what would be normally expected for the adult population during such a time period.
The rescue and recovery workers are a subset of the 71,000 people enrolled in the Registry. The survey, conducted in 2003 and 2004, found that arriving soon after the buildings collapsed, or working on the WTC pile over a long period, increased the workers’ risk of developing asthma. Workers who arrived on September 11, 2001, and worked more than 90 days reported the highest rate of new asthma (7%).
Though respirator use increased as the clean-up progressed, many workers did not wear respiratory protection at the outset. Certain respirators can reduce exposure to hazardous dust when used correctly, but the survey could not distinguish among different types of masks or respirators, nor could it gauge correct usage. Workers who wore them on September 11th and September 12th reported newly-diagnosed asthma at lower rates (4.0% and 2.9%, respectively) than those who did not (6.3% and 4.5%). The longer the period of not wearing masks or respirators, the greater the risk, the survey found. Workers who went months without respiratory protection reported two to three times more asthma incidence than those who wore respirators from the outset. Though respirators were shown to be protective, all worker groups, including those who reported wearing masks, had elevated levels of newly reported asthma.
“The dust from the World Trade Center collapse appears to have had significant respiratory health effects at least for people who worked at the site,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, New York City Health Commissioner. “These findings reflect the critical importance of getting appropriate respiratory protection to all workers as quickly as possible during a disaster, and making every effort to make sure workers wear them at all times. The events of 9/11 were unprecedented, and with the urgency of rescue operations and the difficulty of prolonged physical exertion with most types of respirators, there are no easy answers, even in retrospect.”
Updated on September 13, 2010
WTC rescue, recovery and clean up workers and volunteers have until September 13, 2010 to register with the New York State Workers' Compensation Board. Registering will preserve their right to file for 9/11-related compensation in the future even if they are not sick now.
Eligible city and state employees have until September 11, 2010 to file a WTC-related Notice of Participation with their retirement system. The WTC Disability Law provides a disability retirement benefit to eligible city and state employees who become disabled from participating in the WTC rescue, recovery and clean-up operations between September 11, 2001, and September 12, 2002.