A memorial service is set for today, Feb. 21, 2012, for Dr. Stephen Levin, who was instrumental in addressing the needs of first responders and other workers whose health was negatively affected during the events of 9/11. Dr. Levin passed away Feb. 7 at age 70 at his home in Uppper Grandview, New York. The memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. ET at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s Stern Auditorium, 1468 Madison Avenue at East 100th Street, New York, NY. (more…)
Posts Tagged ‘9-11’
A story published by the New York Times reports thousands of rescue and cleanup workers who were exposed to the toxic air at Ground Zero after the 9/11 tragedy at the World Trade Center have reached a settlement agreement with the city over damage to their health. According to the Times, the city has agreed to pay out up to $657.5 million to about 10,000 plaintiffs in the case.
The settlement agreement has been in the works for about two years, taking place among a great deal of confusion and disagreement about the city’s responsibility for injured workers. The city had claimed it was immune because injuries occurred during a national emergency or civil defense situation. However, injured workers and their families argued they were employed by the city and entitled to compensation as they would be for any injury incurred on the job.
According to the Times report, 95 percent of the plaintiffs in this case must accept the terms of the settlement for it to take effect. Each plaintiff’s case will then be examined individually to determine how much compensation that person will receive, which lawyers estimate could run anywhere from a few thousand dollars to as much as $1 million. Individual compensation will depend on the severity of illness and level of exposure to contaminants at the World Trade Center site.
A variety of health screening and tracking programs were established in the days and months following the September 11 tragedy. Workers and others who simply lived and worked near the disaster site began complaining of a variety of illnesses, especially respiratory problems. There is an official World Trade Center Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program, as well as studies conducted by the New York Fire Department and other organizations.
Some health problems presented immediately following exposure to the site, such as respiratory distress, while others are only just showing up in those who worked at the site. It is now known that the Ground Zero site was contaminated with asbestos at levels at least two times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s “safe” level. Because of the long latency period between exposure to asbestos and the development of mesothelioma – an average of between 10 and 50 years – the true effect of asbestos exposure may not be known for years to come.
Some of the plaintiffs involved in the current settlement are not yet ill, but fear they will develop illnesses in the future as a result of their exposure to the toxins like asbestos. According to the Times, the settlement provides a $23.4 million insurance policy to cover possible future claims.
A friend recently forwarded me a link to a web site that features an ad touting the wonders of asbestos for fire protection, highlighted by a photo of the World Trade Center’s twin towers. The ad was produced in 1981, so it’s not a matter of bad taste, just creepy in light of the September 11 disaster, and ironic because the presence of asbestos in the towers has been a source of health problems for the disaster’s first responders, among the many dangerous toxins released when the buildings collapsed.
The ad references fire alarms, most likely referring to a Feb. 13, 1975 fire that broke out on the 11th floor of the North Tower. But it hits a little too close to home after the events that would take place a little over 25 years later.
On the anniversary of the 2001 tragedy last year, we discussed the ongoing studies being conducted by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygeine on the effects of exposure to the dust released in the catastrophe. The study included close to 5,000 samples of airborne asbestos collected by the EPA in lower Manhattan between Sept. 11, 2001 and Jan. 22, 2002, many of which exceeded “safety” standards.
It is ironic that the ad for asbestos prominently features the tag line “when life depends on it, you use asbestos.”
In 1981, the asbestos industry was already under scrutiny for the link between asbestos and mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, and sometimes the stomach and/or heart. Most recent studies by the National Cancer Institute show that people with even brief exposure to asbestos are at risk. There is no “safe” level of asbestos exposure.
We recently have added a petition to this site urging the U.S. Congress to finally support a total ban of asbestos in the United States, and to provide funding for mesothelioma research. Please sign the petition, and add your voice to this fight.
As of June 2008, the program had identified 382 people who worked at the WTC site who had passed away, and confirmed 204 causes of death, including 30 deaths resulting from respiratory and intrathoracic organ disease. In an updated report released in December 2008, the number of deaths of people who worked at the WTC had jumped to 713 people, with 548 confirmed causes of death. The number of deaths attributed to respiratory and intrathoracic organ disease is noted at 56, accounting for 14.1 percent of the deaths.
Of course, these numbers are general, and not specifically linked to asbestos inhalation, but the report does note that 30.2 percent of the confirmed causes of death of people who worked at the WTC are releated to “exposure to harmful substances or environments,” and 27.3 percent specifically related to “ingestion of substance.”
As the nation reflects on the tragic attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, there is lingering and growing concern about the dangers of asbestos exposure at the World Trade Center “Ground Zero.” First responders and people who live nearby were exposed to tons of asbestos when the twin towers collapsed, along with smoke, chemicals and other debris.
According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygeine, the EPA collected and analyzed close to 5,000 samples for airborne asbestos in lower Manhattan between Sept. 11, 2001 and Jan. 22, 2002. Thirty-one of the samples collected prior to Sept. 30, 2001 indicated asbestos in excess of the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) standard, as did four other samples collected on four other dates during the testing period.
At the time, the health department assured the public that they did not expect brief exposures to low levels of airborne asbestos to create long-term health effects.
However, the National Cancer Institute states that people with only brief exposure to asbestos are at risk for the development of asbestos diseases including asbestosis and mesothelioma. They cite a study titled Environmental Health Perspectives, published in 2006, that examined results of a five-year assessment of the health of workers. Results of the program, called the World Trade Center Worker and Volunteer Medical Screening Program, noted that nearly 70 percent of World Trade Center rescue and recovery workers suffered new or worsened respiratory systems while performing work at the WTC site.
In 2002, the Center for Disease Control’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the New York City Health Department established the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Registry, hoping to monitor the health of those exposed to the WTC disaster. The program plans to follow up with enrollees for the next 20 years, and will examine both physical and mental health.
The Registry includes 71,437 participants, including rescue and recovery workers, Lower Manhattan residents, area workers, commuters and passerby. The voluntary program was open to anyone who lived, worked or went to school in the area of the WTC disaster, or were involved in rescue and recovery efforts. It is the largest public health registry in U.S. history, but registered particpants still only comprise about 17.4 percent of the people who would have been eligible to participate, program officials estimate.
According to the report, released yesterday, half the registrants reported being in the dust cloud from the collapsing towers; 70 percent witnessed a traumatic sight; and 13 percent sustained an injury that day. The reports says 3 percent of all adults in the program reported they have developed new asthma, 16 percent had post-traumatic stress disorder, and 8 percent have severe psychological distress.
The report finds that first responders – rescue and recovery workers who worked on the debris pile – have the highest rate of new asthma, at 6 percent.
Additionally, examining the health of participants two to three years after the event revealed 3 percent of Lower Manhattan adult residents and workers had developed asthma – twice what is believed to be the baseline rate of development of asthma over that period.
The Health Department has issued a follow-up survey that examined program participants’ health issues five to six years after the 9/11 attack, and expect to release those findings in the next few months.
Additionally, since the attacks of Sept. 11, the New York State Department of Health has been collecting information about the deaths among World Trade Center responders, recovery workers and volunteers – no matter how or why the death occurred – through its World Trade Center (WTC) Responder Fatality Investigation. It is hoped the data will help track and identify all fatalities and allow the department to analyze the root causes.
As of June 2008, the program has identified 382 people who worked a the WTC site and have since passed away, and has confirmed 204 causes of death. The report states that 30 of those people have died of respiratory and intrathoracic organ disease, making up 19.4 percent of the overall confirmed deaths. Twenty-six of the deaths, or 16.8 percent, were specifically related to lung disease.
It was reported by Newsday.com on March 11 that the New York City Fire Department planned to honor paramedic Deborah Reeve, who died of mesothelioma in 2006, with a plaque at EMS Station 20 in the Bronx, NY.
The Newsday.com article mentions that Reeve worked at a morgue in the toxic dust of Ground Zero following 9-11.
While her death has not been officially linked to exposure to materials released from the collapsing buildings, there is a great deal of study about the link between the disaster and mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, which affect many of the immediate responders and those who worked on the site in the many days and months afterward.
Today, the official New York City Fire Department web site has the story:
EMS officers, paramedics and EMTs attended the plaque dedication for Paramedic Deborah Reeve on March 11 at EMS Station 20 in the Bronx. Paramedic Reeve died of mesothelioma (lung cancer) on March 15, 2006. “This loss was a great blow to the members of this EMS station, the Department and the City of New York,” said Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta. “But we hope this ceremony will serve as a reminder to her family that we understand your pain has not diminished and your loss has not been forgotten.” Paramedic Reeve served with the EMS Command for 17 years before her death. She was remembered as smart, hard working and an outstanding paramedic. “She was the strongest person I ever met,” said Reeve’s husband, Paramedic David Reeve, also of Station 20. He recalled how they met at the EMS Training Academy, when she sat behind him in class and made fun of his southern accent. He was joined at the ceremony by their children, Elizabeth, 12, and Mark, 8. “All new members should try to model themselves after Debbie – the commitment and dedication she showed every day,” said Chief of Department Salvatore Cassano. Chief of EMS John Peruggia read the poem “She is Gone” in Paramedic Reeve’s memory, saying it emphasized “the importance of remembering Debbie, who gave so much to this city.” The plaque was unveiled to cheers and tears from her family, friends and fellow EMS personnel. It will be hung at EMS Station 20, located at Jacobi Medical Center in the Morris Park/Pelham Parkway section of the Bronx. “She was an excellent, outstanding paramedic … she really knew her stuff,” said Captain Felipe Periu of Station 20.