Congress Members, Responders Decry NIOSH Director’s Firing

Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), accompanied by World Trade Center responders gathered Tuesday at Ground Zero to demand that the Bush administration reverse its decision to fire Dr. John Howard, Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. As NIOSH director, Howard administered federally funded health care programs for 9/11 first responders exposed to Ground Zero toxins.

Also yesterday, Maloney, Nadler, and Reps. Eliot Engel and Edolphus Towns sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Julie Gerberding demanding a meeting this week to discuss Howard’s firing. In a related effort, New York Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer also on Tuesday sent a letter to Leavitt urging him to reconsider the termination of Howard and calling for a detailed account of the reasons he was removed from his position.

“Only the Bush Administration would fire a respected public servant who has received near-universal praise for doing a good job,” Maloney said. “Dr. Howard is out of a job because he wanted to help the heroes of 9/11 and his superiors didn’t. We demand that the administration take back this outrageous slap at sick 9/11 responders and reappoint Dr. Howard to a well-deserved second term.”

Nadler added, "Dr. Howard is a dedicated public servant who has sought to provide much needed assistance to the living victims of 9/11. President Bush is quick to use 9/11 for a photo opportunity, but when it comes to taking action on 9/11 health issues, he consistently fails. I strongly urge him to reconsider his decision and ask Dr. Howard to stay on. It doesn't make sense for President Bush to change pitchers in the ninth inning of his Administration. At this point, 9/11 victims would be better served by allowing Dr. Howard to finish the game rather than trying to find his replacement."

On July 3, Gerberding notified Howard that he would not be reappointed to a second term as NIOSH director, despite praise from industry and labor interests regarding his service protecting American workers. In February 2006, the New York congressional delegation successfully urged the Bush administration to appoint Howard to serve as the federal government's coordinator to oversee the response to Ground Zero health impacts.

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