Congress approves legislation for Trade Center cleanup workers
The $4.3 billion measure establishes the World Trade Center Health Program within the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and reopens the Victims Compensation Fund. It was passed after congressional negotiators reached an 11th-hour agreement.
The bill was named for James Zadroga, a 34-year-old New York police officer who died from a respiratory illness attributed to breathing toxic dust at ground zero. It creates a multibillion dollar federal benefits program for the emergency and cleanup workers who responded to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Once signed, the legislation will take effect this year and allow first responders to receive health benefits and compensation for five years.
Thousands were exposed to toxic substances that were emitted when the Twin Towers collapsed. Numerous studies have indicated that respiratory ailments, sinus problems, asthma, and loss of lung function were associated with those who responded.
A recent report from the World Trade Center Medical Working Group of New York City refers to studies indicating thousands of responders also suffer from gastroesophageal reflux symptoms, as well as mental health issues.
The current health programs are funded through block grants that pay for overall operations, such as hiring doctors and buying supplies. The new legislation would require the collection and analysis of quality and utilization data from the WTC health providers and require that the WTC administrator use this data to develop more efficient payment systems, according to Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., one of the bill's sponsors.
To date, the federal government has spent approximately $475 million for screening, monitoring, or treating responders for illnesses and conditions related to 9/11, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office. NIOSH has awarded funds to oversee the programs.
As of June 30, 2010, a total of 44,000 responders had been screened by the WTC health programs. From July 2009 to June 30, 2010, 23,000 were monitored and about 13,000 were treated.
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January 10, 2011
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