'WTC cough' plagues workers

9,000 NYC Sept. 11 responders still experience severe health problems.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | NEW YORK | March 14, 2003



"It's pretty shocking actually. It's a year after the disaster, and we're still seeing people with respiratory problems."

—Diane Stein


More than a year after the collapse of the World Trade Center, nearly 9,000 rescue workers and volunteers continue to experience severe health problems -- most notably what has come to be called the "World Trade Center cough."

These are the people who worked on "the pile" at Ground Zero, and many of them did their jobs without proper protective gear and without any thought for their own health. Now many of them suffer from a whole range of respiratory illnesses, as well as psychological problems.

Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan has been running a federally funded screening program to diagnosis illnesses experienced by these workers. Other groups, such as the United Church of Christ and Church World Service, are making sure that the afflicted workers get the medicine they need, according to Diane Stein, outreach coordinator for the screening program.

"The situation was unlike anything we had ever seen," she said. "It's pretty shocking actually. It's a year after the disaster, and we're still seeing people with respiratory problems."

A study conducted of a sample group of 250 of these workers showed that about half "experienced persistent WTC-related pulmonary, ENT and/or mental health symptoms 10 months to one year following the New York terrorist attacks," according to press release posted on www.WTCexams.org.

The federal money which funds the screening program, however, does not pay for treatment or medicine, Stein said.

A good deal of the treatment costs are covered, thanks to a $1 million grant from the Bear Stearns Charitable Trust, she said. That grant, however, does not cover the cost of medicine for unemployed workers who cannot afford the very drugs they have been prescribed.

Some of Ground Zero workers were "so damaged by it that they can't work now," Stein said. "It's pretty horrible to have a doctor give you a diagnosis and tell you what to do and not have the money to do that. That's where United Church of Christ has been able to help."

The United Church of Christ has provided $100,000 to pay for medicine, as well as $275,000 to help the New York Committee on Occupational Safety and Health locate rescue workers who have not yet been screened, according to Florence Coppola, who coordinates domestic disaster response for the United Church of Christ/Wider Church Ministries.

Church World Service is also helping to coordinate efforts between all the organizations involved in the screening and related programs.


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More links on September 11 2001

 

Related Links:

World Trade Center Worker and Volunteer Medical Screening Program

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