Volume 16 • Issue 44 | April 2 - 8, 2004

W.T.C. heath bill

Residents and workers affected by the World Trade Center dust plume would receive health screening and possibly treatment under a bill introduced by U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Christopher Shays.

At a March 29 news conference, lawmakers said they had not drawn any geographical boundaries that would determine resident eligibility in the program. But Shays (R-CT) said those who live where the dust plume traveled would likely be included. Phil Craft, a Maloney spokesperson, said all residents diagnosed with a 9/11-related illness would likely be included, regardless of where they live.

Local residents cheered the proposed bill, called the Remember 9/11 Health Act.

“We applaud the efforts of Representatives Maloney (D-NY) and Shays to address the critical need to track and treat those who are sick now and to monitor those who may become sick in the future, especially children, who are much more vulnerable to harm from these pollutants,” said Kimberly Flynn of 9/11 Environmental Action.

The legislation would expand an existing $81 million screening program for 9/11 rescue workers to include residents, office workers and federal employees. While the current program will monitor an estimated 12,000 non-firefighters for about five years, the proposed legislation would include 40,000 people for 20 years.

At least 20 years will be required to follow people exposed to 9/11 toxins, said Dr. Stephen Levin, medical director of the Mount Sinai Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos inhalation, does not manifest until an average of 35 after a person is first exposed, Levin said.

Under the proposed legislation, those diagnosed with a 9/11-related illness who do not have health insurance would be eligible for treatment at no cost. At Monday’s news conference, rescue workers spoke of continuing at their jobs despite their 9/11-related illnesses, just to have access to health insurance.

Approval of the bill, which must first pass the Republican-dominated House, could take “months or a year or two,” Shays said.

Maloney and Shays did not provide an estimate of the cost of their proposed legislation.


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