Spotlight On: The Ground Zero Diseases And Heroes of September 11 That No One Talks About
Exposure wasn't just to 9/11 workers. It was anyone who lived, worked, or went to school in WTC area.
The Aftermath of September 11, 2001
September 11, 2001 Changed Our Lives In Every Way
On September 11, 2001, the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center changed the fabric of our lives in the United States, Security as we knew it took on a whole new dimension.
From that day forward, every suspicious (or foreign) person and every bag or conveyance was suspected of terrorism so that baggage and personal searches became commonplace. Concentrating mainly on air travel, all transportation modes in, out and across the US were in crack down mode. It would remain that way for years to come.
The U S Government said it was Osama bin Laden who deserved our anger and a manhunt was underway that would not culminate until nearly ten years later in 2011.
For the dedicated workers and volunteer organizations at Ground Zero, life in 2001 became a daily routine of handling, cleaning and removing the toxic soup of debris laden with unknown carcinogens.
They unintentionally brought this home to their families because it was in and on their clothing and bodies. The US government proudly provided food for them while working, whilst they sat on the toxic ground to eat it, yet they could not provide the proper safety equipment necessary to protect them from health dangers while they worked.
These workers were doomed from the time the first plane hit the towers.
The Christine Todd Whitman Lie Heard Around The World
The safety & protection of workers was not the focus of the US Government
They lost their chaplain, "Father Mike" Judge. He was killed from debris as he gave Last Rites to many who lay dying
EPA Announcement: Ground Zero Is Safe
Since 2001, the firemen, policemen, first responders and other cleanup workers have stated emphatically that they were lied to about the safety of living, working and breathing the air at Ground Zero in New York City. They are now plagued with the diseases and illnesses to show for it.
Day in and day out, we saw photos of men and women working without appropriate respirators (sometimes with nothing at all). The small measures offered by way of a painting mask, probably bought in bulk to distribute to any upright breathing person, just didn't cut it.
Most likely, US Government officials wouldn't want to admit that toxic air, the ground and the buildings were already too far gone to offer appropriate protection to these workers.
We've all seen photos of people, cars and buildings covered in white dust. No one had ever seen the magnitude of such a situation in the past.
Too many federal agencies were fighting for the right to take control of the scene, so that anything that could have helped these workers would be too little, too late, by the time it would be settled who was in charge.
With all that crap flying around in the air and still more coming down, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman was covering the collective butts of the US Government by downplaying the possible health risks.
She frequently appeared on television making EPA announcements to say the area was safe, always citing the "latest testing." Common sense aside, few people took normal everyday safety precautions, all because the EPA chief said it was safe.
From 2002 onward, the cleanup workers stated in television interviews that they had to believe her because she represented the very agency which was supposed to protect them.
Ten years later, in testimony before Congress in 2011, Christine Todd Whitman changed her tune but still somehow contends that she did not lie. She claims she was afraid that bedlam would have ensued and "I was trying to control a potential panic. I was trying to diffuse a situation that could have become worse."
One can't imagine anything much worse than being exposed to all those carcinogens which resulted in these workers being either dead, dying or fighting for their lives with all sorts of cancers and other illnesses.
Whitman, and several other government officials, were named in several lawsuits, some of which are still pending. In the United States, one is permitted to sue government officials for acts and decisions they made while in office which adversely affected any one citizen or class of citizens.
I'd say this qualifies.
The cleanup was going to take a long time. Many had to return to work, but was it safe?
If Wall Street is open for business, everything must be all okay
A week later on September 18, 2001, the reasons for saying the area was safe all became clear to many Americans. The US Government's ulterior motive was to get Wall Street open and running as soon as possible to avoid having a financial disaster follow a terrorist disaster.
The US Government - namely President George Bush - wanted Wall Street up and running to show a unified front to New York City employers that it was safe to summon their workers back to their businesses, even before their dirty, debris-laden offices, hallways and cafeterias were ready to occupy.
Not just WTC workers got sick - this video is about a school not far away
Government Red Tape Meant No Benefits
No cleaning services were employed to clean up offices or work space environments of buildings near Ground Zero so these employees returned to work and were exposed to toxic dust.
In interviews with journalists and investigators, quite a few of these employees produced photographs and amateur videotape showing the layers of debris they had to live with in their workplace for six months or more - breathing in and working among - the fallout that landed in their buildings.
As soon as three months after September 11th, 2001, many World Trade Center cleanup workers and nearby office employees couldn't work anymore. They soon exhausted any work-related health and worker compensation benefits.
Supporting their families and getting medical care became almost impossible because Social Security denied their applications, stating that their health problems were considered work-related.
People whose offices were near the Ground Zero area, along with the WTC firefighters, police officers, first responders and volunteer organizations were all part of the joint effort to convince the US Government to approve and acknowledge that working and living in WTC area was responsible for their illnesses and diseases. They took to the media, pleading their cases, hoping to finally receive much needed health care and financial aid.
The US Government saw the numbers of possible claims coming their way and decided to limit the distance of exposure to within 1.5 miles of Ground Zero. Anyone who got sick and was outside that 1.5 mile limit was not eligible to apply for benefits, no matter what was wrong with them.
The workers were now more like victims.
They just wanted their government to take care of them, the same way they came to the aid of their government.
In next video: New York Firefighter has camera and takes you inside a collapsing tower.
Notes regarding video titled: Inside The South Tower of The World Trade Center As It Collapses
0:54 to 1:27 A New York Fireman's lights and camera takes viewers inside the South Tower as it starts to collapse and they scramble to safety.
1:30 - 2:40 the people outside the Towers react to collapse
2:43 - 7:00 Camera resumes and films pitch black, then dust filled air inside the tower. Looking for survivors and looking for a way out through the tower rubble
All the while, there are layers of debris on their bodies and very few firefighters have respiratory protection on or don't have any at all.
Inside South Tower of The World Trade Center As It Collapses
Toxic Debris Lay Everywhere For Months In The WTC Disaster Area
Investigating Christine Todd Whitman
On September 13, 2006, New York Congressmen Jerrold Nadler, Anthony Weiner, and New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell Jr went to US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales requesting to investigate whether criminal charges could be brought against Christine Todd Whitman for lying about air safety in the Ground Zero area.
It would set the stage for the first of many lawsuits brought against government officials and agencies.
The following video is only part of her testimony in 2007.
2007 Congressional Hearings: Christine Todd Whitman Testimony
Author's Note About The Following Video: What Happened Behind The Scenes
When people speak on video, the tape doesn't lie and this one is amazing.
Besides reading the daunting list of carcinogens that these workers were exposed to, if you view the entire video, EPA & other government agency officials, including Dr. Cate Jenkins, describe the real risks of the air quality, despite the public announcements.
Whistleblower employees also gave details about the wording of actual government documents which were prepared, then circulated within high levels of the EPA and FEMA, to get everyone on the same page.
The final documents became the official statements that downplayed the dangers and risks to the general public. These documents are now riddled with deletions and omissions.
But it all came down to money, in more ways than one. Money to compensate workers, money to feed our economy which was driven by Wall Street, and keeping businesses from going under due to a disaster.
If the government could start getting area businesses back to normal, they would avoid riots, looting, and bedlam -- and a financial crisis.
Christine Todd Whitman said in one hearing that she was determined "not to let the terrorists win,"
But many citizens ask, "at what price?"
The ultimate price was the US Government did not protect the workers who put themselves out there to respond, hoping to help make things right with our world again.
What Happened Behind The Scenes
This Was The US Government's Focus
Workers and residents who developed cancer after 9/11 continued to challenge the government that their cancers were linked to the destruction of the Twin Towers from the debris and fallout that was in the air, on the ground and in their homes, offices and schools.
Up to 2011, after more than ten years of deaths, illness, applications and petitions, the US Government continued to come back with "There's no proof that these diseases were caused by exposure to dust and debris from the disaster area."
One news reporter said they (US Government) were too busy celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011, which did nothing to help these victims.
When they were no longer able to work, when they had used up all their private and employer insurance benefits, and when they tried to seek compensation and health care from the United States Government, their country abandoned them.
The Results Of One Autopsy Started The Journey
The government had a short list of eligible illnesses they would recognize for workers to qualify for World Trade Center health-related conditions and only those people who had the listed illnesses and diseases (primarily respiratory) would get the medical care they needed.
Cancer was not an eligible or recognized disease.
They were going to need a miracle to get the free and appropriate medical care before more people died and before each family went bankrupt.
The autopsy results of 34-year old Detective James Zadroga was their miracle.
NYPD Detective Zadroga died on January 5, 2006 of respiratory disease and his autopsy report stated his cause of death was directly linked to working in the Ground Zero cleanup zone. It was a major victory because his death was the first death linked to 9/11. It opened the door for more cases like his.
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act (2006) signed by New York Governor Pataki eight months later on August 14, 2006, was a $475 million fund which only paid "death benefits for Ground Zero workers who died of cancer and respiratory diseases" assuming their diseases were due to exposure of toxins at Ground Zero.
Families of the dead would be compensated with death benefits, but this Act did nothing to help those still living.
The original idea behind the two Senators and Representatives creating this act was to provide tests, treatment and financial assistance for anyone who worked in recovery, cleanup, nearby homes and businesses, and survivors of 9/11 attacks.
But it sidetracked with modifications and got bounced around in Congress for 4 years until December 22, 2010. The original Act was discarded altogether and the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 dumped its $4.2 billion into the newly created The World Trade Center Health Program.
The World Trade Center Health Program required 60 votes to pass both Senate and House of Representatives. Finally, after nearly 4 years and a lot of tweaking of the wording and laying out guidelines, the 60 votes were in.
On January 2, 2011 President Obama signed it into law.
The workers soon learned that just because it became law, that didn't mean everyone would start receiving benefits.
In 2011, the estimates were about 45,000 people were affected by illness, disease or death. Today in 2014, as people just become diagnosed with new cancers and illnesses, that number is more than 70,000 people.
Further down in this hub are reports showing you the estimates of how many victims there are, how many applied, how many were eligible after application and the very low number of people now receiving benefits. Having a law didn't make things much easier for these people.
Denied! US Gov't Will Not Help Sick Workers
2010: 900 Dead. The US Denied Their Cancers Were 9/11 Related
July 2011 - No Evidence Cancer Is Related to WTC Cleanup
The World Trade Center Health Registry was set up by the NY Dept of Health and Mental Hygiene and with the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Their funding comes from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA).
The World Trade Center Health Registry tracks (as of 12/31/2013) over 71,000 people who were exposed to ill effects of certain toxins and chemicals by working, living, going to school in the 1.5 mile radius of the World Trade Center.
By definition, a registry is a statistical collection of information about individuals with certain diseases or conditions. This Registry was not promising health care or compensation. It was a means to gather information: who was sick, with what illness, what their occupation was and where they lived.
It continues to be a running list to monitor and keep track of the numbers and types of diseases and illnesses. It probably had nefarious beginnings as a fact finding mission, to find out how much the 9/11 disaster was going to cost in the big picture. But we will never know that for sure.
The questionnaire that telephone interviewers used is 81 pages long. It was a time consuming and tiring task for any person who is ill, especially if they have a debilitating illness. I wasn't able to locate the guidelines for face to face interviews, but one can imagine from the telephone transcript that it probably took a couple of hours.
The interviewer is given prompts to go in a different direction if the answer does not directly answer his question.
On page 76 of the transcript, you will notice that the interviewer tells the victim that researchers might want his personal and medical information for other research studies.
Originally the applicant was lead to believe this Registry was only to keep track of WTC people and they want to check in with them from time to time. Quoting from page 76:
"researchers may want [you/SUBJECT] to participate in other World Trade Center studies. Is it ok if the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene calls [you/you on behalf of SUBJECT] in the future about other studies?"
Then the last notification on that page reads:
"Within 30 days after this interview, we will send you a letter thanking you for
participating. You will also get a copy of the Fact Sheet which summarizes your rights as a research participant in the Registry."
The victims soon realized that participating in the Registry could work in their favor, by allowing the Registry to track and document their long list of diseases and illnesses which the federal government denied were connected to 9/11. If more victims came forward, they'd be stronger in numbers.
The chart which follows shows how much it costs to operate the World Trade Center Health Program. The costs are astounding, considering the chart shows operating costs only.
What It Costs To Operate The WTC Health Program
Getting Medical Services & Money
There is another fund called the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund that compensated victims as long as they agreed not to sue the airlines for their bad security and subsequent loss of life.
Kenneth Feinberg was appointed to make all decisions on how much each victim would receive in dollar amounts. It was his job to estimate how much each person would have earned over the course of their lifetime of working years.
His word was final; once a family accepted the amount, no appeals were permitted.
Feinberg judicated over 900 of 1600 hearings. By December 2003, $7 billion was distributed to 97% of the families with the average payout being $1.8 million. A non-negotiable clause was included in their documents that the families were never to sue the airlines for lack of security or any other safety issues.
If a worker did not receive money from any other agency or fund, victims could make a claim for medical expenses and pain and suffering. They just had to be sick with an "eligible" illness and be within the 1.5 mile radius of the World Trade Center area.
If a worker qualified for Worker's Compensation in New York due to workplace illness or injury, a worker would receive $400 per week - total of $1600 a month. These are people who were firemen, police officers, executives and other professionals who earned that much in 10 to 12 hours.
The myriad of funds that popped up after 9/11 boggles the mind. Each came with their own list of qualifications of illnesses and most followed the government mandate of 1.5 mile distance from Ground Zero.
Criteria for Qualifying for Compensation
Click on the above graphic to view larger and be amazed at how few have been approved
Total claimants deemed eligible for compensation: 1,322.
Total awaiting review: 732.
Total approved: 323
What's the delay?
1923 Claimants who don't have an eligible condition & haven't responded to requests for medical documentation.
Cleanup workers have developed several forms of cancer
September 2013 - 12 years later
Epilogue: The Final Ruling and Resources as of April 2014
As of April 5, 2014 (today), the US Government has not approved the majority of illnesses to put these workers on the official recognized list of WTC diseases. The documents and linked information provided in this hub are current as of December 31, 2013 and February 28, 2014. As noted on each exhibit, there are over 66,000 affected individuals with less than 10,000 meeting eligibility.
The result of the 2007 and 2008 Christine Todd Whitman Congressional hearings and subsequent hearings with other federal agency administrators was:
As of April 22, 2008, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that EPA head Christine Todd Whitman could not be held liable for saying to World Trade Center area residents that the air was safe for breathing after the buildings collapse.
The U.S. Department of Justice had argued that holding the agency liable would establish a risky legal precedent because future public officials would be afraid to make public statements.
The Federal Register website is open for public inspection and will take comments on the website from February 18, 2014 until it ends this month on April 21, 2014. After that, comments will be closed.
"Title I of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010, established the World Trade Center Health Program within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The WTC Health Program provides medical monitoring and treatment benefits to "eligible" firefighters and related personnel, law enforcement officers, and rescue, recovery, and cleanup workers who responded to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City, at the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and to "eligible" persons (survivors) who were present in the dust or dust cloud on September 11, 2001 or who worked, resided, or attended school, childcare, or adult daycare in the New York City disaster area."
In other words, you only qualify for eligibility if your documented illness is on the approved list. Here is the application to find out if you are even eligible.
Here is the approved list of The US Government's list of recognized health conditions for the Compensation and Health Care Funds. dated February 18, 2014, which is the latest list as of this writing.
Of course, there is a hitch. We are talking about the US Government here.
Workers must complete the application by April 21, 2014 and workers may only apply if their illness is on the approved list of WTC health-related conditions.
On November 13, 2013, the New York State Workers' Compensation Law extended their filing and deadline periods until September 11, 2014 and you can read more about the eligibility and forms here.
The Federal Victim Compensation Fund provides compensation to any victim (or representative of a deceased individual) that suffered physical harm or illness, or was killed as a result of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes of September 11, 2001, or the debris removal efforts that took place in the immediate aftermath of those crashes. Directions are at the above link.
Below is the first picture in a slideshow of what Ground Zero looks like today. You can view more photos at the link.
September 11, 2013 - Ground Zero
For Further Reading
9/11 dust exposure linked to sleep apnea & PTSD dated March 26, 2014
The 9/11 WTC First Responder Foundation Page -helping to seek legislation where 60,000 to 80,000 workers will receive the health care and compensation that are due to them.
A 2007 interview with the doctor charged with monitoring the hard-to-track effects of pollution from the WTC collapse
A 2007 New England Journal of Medicine report on the Legacy of World Trade Center Dust
Database of the World Trade Center Health Program - includes which streets within the 1.5 mile radius were covered under this program, as well as the definitions of each group demographics, and damage assessment (status) of the affected buildings
Frustration over 9/11 Fund Distribution dated November 2013
CNN Report dated September 11, 2013 citing more than 1,100 have cancer after 9/11. The number is dubious to me when I read the reports that I have gathered to include in this hub.
Your opinions and comments are greatly appreciated.
Did you know?
Regarding the links and information presented in this hub, did any these facts surprise you?
© Rachael O'Halloran. April 5, 2014. All Rights Reserved.
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© 2014 Rachael O'Halloran