Ills of Ground Zero workers aired at hearing

Wednesday, 17 March, 2004

At a recent congressional hearing in Manhattan, experts testified about long-term health problems among workers who inhaled fumes and dust while performing cleanup at the World Trade Center site.

The hearing was convened at the request of Rep. Carolyn Maloney. She opened the session by stating that, "40% of the Ground Zero workers lack health insurance. How in the world are other first responders going to respond to other disasters if they see that Sept 11 responders are not given health care?"

Doctors and others described a bureaucratic system that makes it difficult for people to get money they deserve. A spokesman for the New York State Workers' Compensation Board, said a US$175 million fund from the US Congress was intended to cover medical needs of those who volunteered to work at Ground Zero. Employed workers were expected to be covered by their employers' insurance.

According to New York Newsday, the speakers said they had been denied workers' compensation medical coverage. A representative from the US Transport Workers Union said that of 4000 members engaged at the site, half are now seriously ill. OSHA regional administrator Pat Clark testified about the agency's efforts at the site, noting that respirators were handed out and workers were told to wear their masks. But she noted that no such precautions were taken on behalf of those who cleaned inside homes and offices in lower Manhattan.

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