- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 5, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) — Nearly 70 percent of recovery workers who responded to the attacks on the World Trade Center have suffered lung problems, and high rates of lung “abnormalities” continue, a health study released yesterday shows.

Doctors at Mount Sinai Medical Center, which conducted the study, said the results prove that working in the toxic gray dust at ground zero made many people sick, and some likely will suffer the effects for the rest of their lives.

“There should no longer be any doubt about the health effects of the World Trade Center. Our patients are sick,” said Dr. Robin Herbert, co-director of the group that investigated the long-term effects from exposure to dust at the site.

The study, the largest involving health issues linked to the September 11 attacks, is to be published tomorrow in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, just days before the fifth anniversary of the Twin Towers’ collapse.

It focused mostly on what has been dubbed the “World Trade Center cough,” which was little understood immediately after the attacks but has become a chief concern of health professionals and advocates. It also found that lung ailments tended to be worst among those who arrived first at the site.

In lung function tests, responders had abnormalities at a rate double that expected in the general population. Those abnormalities persisted for months and in some cases years after the exposure, the study found.

The findings are based on medical examinations conducted between July 2002 and April 2004 on 9,500 ground zero workers, including construction workers, law enforcers, firefighters, transit workers, volunteers and others.

Public concern over the fate of ground zero workers has risen. In a class-action lawsuit against the city and its contractors, 8,000 workers and civilians blame September 11 for sinusitis, cancer and other ailments they developed after the attacks.

The doctors were joined by New York politicians who prodded the federal government to extend funding for research and treatment programs.

“Our government was not telling us the truth,” said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat. “The air was not safe to breathe. It was obvious that the air was hard to see through, let alone breathe.”

Dr. John Howard, who was appointed by the Bush administration in February to coordinate ground zero health programs, said the findings buttress work conducted by city researchers.

Gov. George E. Pataki, a Republican, signed legislation last month that expanded benefits for workers who became sick after toiling at ground zero, but New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, also a Republican, objected to the laws, saying they were unfunded and would cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars.

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