9/11 Health Coordinator Comes To New York
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Two weeks after the death of a former NYPD detective was linked to his work at the World Trade Center site, the federal government's new 9/11 health coordinator arrived in New York Friday.
Doctor John Howard met with local lawmakers and community leaders in Manhattan to discuss the goals and challenges of the work ahead.
His position was created in the Department of Health and Human Services to monitor the health impacts of September 11th.
Dr. Howard says he not only wants to track the health problems of emergency first responders, but also those of non-responders, such as volunteers and residents.
"We can look at what happened at this disaster at a national level and not repeat some of these terrific problems that we're experiencing now five years after the fact," said Dr. Howard.
"Dr. Howard gives us a chance for having the rational basis from which to make better decisions going forward so we will never again have our government say, ÎOh the air is fine!" added Senator Hillary Clinton.
In January, NYPD Officer James Zadroga died from what medical examiners in New Jersey later said were brain and respiratory complications caused by his work at the World Trade Center site in the weeks after 9/11.
NY1's Sandra Endo filed this report.
They call it a toxic cocktail - the dust cloud after the 9/11 attacks. It could affect the lives of thousands in years to come.
“Common sense, anyone would say, ÎWell gee, we have a lot of people here in New York who were entirely healthy before 9/11, and now they're not,’” Dr. John Howard said Friday. “That's common sense type of science, if you will.”
Dubbed the 9/11 health czar, Dr. Howard is the federal official newly in charge of coordinating and tracking the health of people exposed to the conditions at the World Trade Center site.
Senator Hillary Clinton pushed for the creation of his job.
“We need to help people who were affected, but we need to learn some lessons from this so we can apply them going forward, whether it's a natural disaster or heaven forbid another terrorist attack,” said Clinton.
They're urging anyone who worked or lived near the site to register to have their health tracked. Two recent deaths have been linked to conditions there.
Paramedic Marvin Bethea says he's suffering from illness because of his work there.
“I was on two medicines before 9/11, and today [I’m taking 13] all because of 9/11. And yet they say I’m not sick,” said Bethea.
But some question whether compiling data is really going to be of much practical help.
“It can’t help us physically, the people who are having physical problems and problems that are going to happen down the road we don't know,” said TriBeCa resident Esther Regelson. “So I do hope we have more than a databank at our disposal.”
Some officials agree more needs to be done.
“The response of city and state government have been absolutely shameful, and what the city and state government have said in effect to people is, ÎDon't help us in the future. Don't be a first responder, because if you are and if you are injured, we're going to throw you overboard,’” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler.
That's why in addition to tracking health conditions, these lawmakers are pushing to get more federal funding to aid those seeking medical help as a result of 9/11.
- Sandra Endo