Seven years after the September 11 attacks we are still seeing the effects among firefighters and other workers who were exposed to the contaminated air around the collapsed World Trade Center towers. In addition to the thousands of local responders that worked at “ground zero”, Type 1 incident management teams comprised mostly of wildland firefighters were there as well. I wonder if anyone is conducting any organized tracking of the health of those team members?
According to the World Trade Center Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program at Manhattan’s Mount Sinai Medical Center, the rate of exposure-related illness is 70 percent among the 40,000 ground zero workers it monitors. This includes 12,000 New York Fire Department firefighters and 3,000 emergency medical technicians as well as 25,000 police officers, other firefighters, volunteers, transit workers, communications workers, construction workers, building cleaners and sanitation workers.“The highest frequency of disease is in the people who were most heavily exposed,” says Dr. Philip Landrigan, director of the program.Quaranti says that some of the 1,500 sanitation workers on site are already dead of what he believes to be exposure-related illnesses.“A couple of guys died from cancer, a couple had liver problems,” he says.Causality is a hotly contested issue, however. When asked how many first responders have died as a result of their exposure, Landrigan replies: “I couldn’t begin to tell you.”Michael Roberts scans a photo hanging in the office of the house he and his wife own in Henderson. It shows Roberts and six other New York-Presbyterian Hospital EMTs rushing toward the towers as they blazed.According to Roberts, the rate of illness in those pictured is 100 percent.“Jack Delaney, the guy in the white helmet and blue jacket, he has asthma and nodules on his lungs now,” the 59-year-old says. “John Bergman, he has asthma. Tony DiTomasso, he’s behind me. He’s got asthma, too.“The other guys, they’re all on inhalers.”