- The Washington Times - Monday, January 14, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) Immigrant day laborers have performed thousands of hours of work removing debris from downtown office and apartment buildings since the September 11 terrorist attacks, many without proper protective gear and most without health insurance.
Starting today, the workers can get free physical exams and be tested for health problems at a mobile health clinic parked near City Hall.
"We are aiming to help the most neglected, least protected workers, who might otherwise receive no medical care for occupational health problems," said Dr. Steven Markowitz, director of the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems at Queens College.
"We want to identify their illnesses and provide them with properly fitting respirators to protect themselves in the future," said Dr. Markowitz, who is overseeing the initiative.
Day laborers tend to have less training than union workers and are paid a fraction of the union rate. Many of the several hundred who have worked at the site are illegal immigrants.
Paul Bartlett, a research associate at the center, said many building owners "basically cut corners, and they started hiring day laborers, predominantly Latino immigrants, to clean up the buildings."
The Queens College center will operate the mobile heath clinic with the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, and the Latin American Workers' Project.
The worker-health project is designed to provide care and collect data about the workers' exposure to asbestos and other toxins.
"We want to see if we get sufficient numbers to try to characterize as a group what they experienced," Dr. Markowitz said.
Many firefighters who raced to save victims are facing health problems because of the contaminated air at the disaster site.
A few hundred are on medical leave or working light duty because of respiratory illnesses including asthma, persistent coughing and diminished lung capacity.

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