WASHINGTON – The thousands of people exposed to the dust and debris that fell after the attacks on the World Trade Center three years ago are still in desperate need of medical attention,said Rep. Carolyn Maloney,D-N.Y.,Wednesday.
“The president told us that he would never forget,” said Maloney,who was joined at a press conference by people who lived and worked near Ground Zero and have contracted respiratory illnesses.
“Even with thousands still sick,the federal response is still woefully inadequate,” Maloney said.
The group traveled to Washington to attend President Bush's state of the union address and to call on lawmakers to create a long-term health insurance program for those who are suffering from exposure to dust,smoke and toxic chemicals released after the collapse of the World Trade Center.
“Tonight,they will put a face to the numerous health effects of 9/11,” Maloney said.
A study by the Government Accountability Office estimated the dust and debris could have affected 250,000 to 400,000 people.
Of the 61,087 people listed with the World Trade Center Health Registry,nearly half said they had experienced shortness of breath and sinus problems. More than a third reported problems with wheezing,a persistent cough and throat irritation.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler,D-N.Y.,called the Bush administration's response to the dust and asbestos contamination in several downtown New York buildings “criminal negligence.” He urged the Environmental Protection Agency to carry out a comprehensive cleanup of buildings affected by the fall of the World Trade Center.
He said some contaminated buildings should be torn down. Nadler,whose district includes Ground Zero,said,“The EPA is mandated by law to clean up buildings after a terrorist attack.”
Kelly Colangelo,who lived 1½ blocks from the World Trade Center,said she has suffered from rashes,headaches and chronic coughs.
“Over the years,my life has been busy with doctors visits,” Colangelo said,adding that she wondered if she would be part of a cluster of cancer victims in 10 to 15 years because of her exposure to hazardous materials.
Colangelo was a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the EPA filed by a group of recovery workers and downtown residents to demand further testing and cleanup as well as the creation of a fund to pay for medical monitoring.
People who sought help due to exposure to dust and other potential health hazards near Ground Zero have received $380 million in government compensation,according to a study released by the Rand Corp. in November.
The study,among the most comprehensive accounts of compensation paid to individual victims and businesses by public and private agencies,found that “a major unknown is whether resources will be available to pay for health care for respiratory injuries that might appear in the future.”
Maloney said she has reintroduced a bill to expand federal health insurance for downtown residents to cover their physical and psychological treatments and the cost of prescription drugs.
The Remember 9/11 Health Act,first introduced in March 2003,would increase the number of people being monitored from 12,000 to 40,000.