Report Tallies Attack-Related Health Problems

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The New York Sun

Thousands of New Yorkers have suffered from asthma, respiratory problems, and post-traumatic stress disorder related to the collapse of the World Trade Center after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, according to a report released by city officials yesterday.

The report comes from the WTC Medical Working Group, which was appointed by Mayor Bloomberg in 2007 to provide an annual assessment of the city’s September 11-related health services. Among its findings are that 25% of firefighters experienced respiratory problems between two and four years after the terrorist attacks, versus 5% of firefighters prior to September 11. Among Lower Manhattan residents and workers, the reported levels of asthma between two and three years after the attacks were found to be between double and triple the national rates.

In addition to the physical toll of the attacks’ aftermath, 12% of rescue workers and 13% of Lower Manhattan residents reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder between two and three years after the attacks, levels about three times higher than average. Currently, more than 10,000 people are enrolled in city programs to treat physical symptoms they attribute to the attacks.

The report recommended that the city conduct further research on whether higher rates of cancer, chronic illness, and other diseases emerge among first-responders and Lower Manhattan residents and workers emerge in the future.

At a press conference in City Hall, Mr. Bloomberg urged Congress to pass a bill that would provide long-term funding for treating health problems that arise as a result of the attacks. The city secured $108 million from Congress this year for use in treating health problems related to September 11. Despite this year’s substantial federal funding, Mr. Bloomberg said appropriations for post-September 11 health care have been “inconsistent” and require legislation making them permanent and predictable.

“We don’t know if these diseases will emerge, but we do know that we should start, however, to be alert to the potential for their occurrence,” Mr. Bloomberg said yesterday, adding that helping those affected by the terrorist attacks was “a national duty.”

In order to reach more New Yorkers who are potentially suffering from September 11-related illnesses, the city is launching a $5 million advertising campaign encouraging people to report symptoms to the WTC Environmental Health Center, where they can receive help in getting treatment. The ads, which feature descriptions of common symptoms related to the attacks, will run on television and radio, and in newspapers and on subways. They will be released in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Polish.

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