City Questions 9/11 Workers’ Claims of Illness
Nearly 10,000 workers who are suing New York City and its contractors for working at the ground zero site have had their medical records released today, and the outcome is that many are not as sick as their lawyers have claimed.
The city’s review, based on medical records submitted in federal court by the workers and their lawyers, found that as many as 30 percent of the workers reported nothing more than common symptoms like runny nose or cough. Their records, according to the review, did not indicate that doctors had ever diagnosed a specific disease.
In fact, more than 300 workers admitted in court documents that they were not ill at all.
Lawyers for the city, who conducted the review in response to a court order to sort out the seriousness of the claims, also found that many records were contradictory or incomplete, making it difficult to determine when an ailment began or how long it persisted. The documents included few records before Sept. 11, 2001.
The city, which faces a huge financial liability in the lawsuit, has ample reason to play down the claims of firefighters, police officers, construction workers and others who say they became ill because they were not given proper breathing equipment during the nine-month rescue and recovery operation at ground zero.
Much is riding on the result of the records.
Hundreds of workers who could not return to jobs after 9/11 have had their lives interrupted until the litigation is settled. The city and its contractors could be forced to pay $1 billion or more in compensation if they are found to have been negligent in not ensuring that the workers received breathing masks and wore them.
The judge hearing the individual cases, Alvin K. Hellerstein of United States District Court in Manhattan, has criticized the workers’ lawyers for not providing complete medical records back to 1995. He has given them until the end of this month to produce thousands of missing documents so that both sides can come up with a system, known as a severity chart, to classify injuries by type and seriousness.
“Getting those records is imperative in order for us to get a real understanding of the medical conditions of this population,” James E. Tyrell Jr., a lawyer with the firm Patton Boggs whom the city has hired to lead its defense, said in an interview.
The response in the blogosphere has been strong about this case.
When there are masses like this in the mass tort case against the City, there will always be a few that stain the legitimacy of those that are severely sick and ill from their heroic action at ground zero following the horrific events from 9/11/01. Do not believe for one second that many brave souls, men and woman, are not sick because of the toxic cloud they worked under, and do not believe for one second that they are not sick because of the lies told by our City, State and Federal Government about the air quality.
I have lived 9/11 everyday since 9/11. Seeing first hand healthy men and woman get sicker and sicker, and have sadly seen some die. For those who have lied about their role in history is disappointing, but for thosethat have seen history lie to them, I stand by you all and give you my 100% support. - John Feal, 9/11 First Responder And Founder Of The FealGood Foundation
In the cleanup of the Pentagon following September 11, 2001, Occupational Safety and Health Administration laws were enforced, and no workers became ill. At the World Trade Center site, the same laws were not enforced.
In the years since the release of the EPA Inspector General’s above-cited report, the Bush Administration has still not effected a clean-up of the indoor air in apartments and workspaces near the site.
Screenings conducted at the Mount Sinai Medical Center and released in the September 10, 2004, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) of the federal Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), produced the following results:
"Both upper and lower respiratory problems and mental health difficulties are widespread among rescue and recovery workers who dug through the ruins of the World Trade Center in the days following its destruction in the attack of September 11, 2001.
"An analysis of the screenings of 1,138 workers and volunteers who responded to the World Trade Center disaster found that nearly three-quarters of them experienced new or worsened upper respiratory problems at some point while working at Ground Zero. And half of those examined had upper and/or lower respiratory symptoms that persisted up to the time of their examinations, an average of eight months after their WTC efforts ended."