Conference Asks, 'Are We Prepared for the Next 9/11?'

NIOSH's Dr. John Howard and OSHA's Dr. David Michaels are among the speakers at the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health's Sept. 16 conference in New York City.

The leaders of OSHA and NIOSH and Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator of EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, are among the speakers for a Sept. 16 all-day conference in New York City that will examine how well prepared their agencies are to protect responders from harmful exposures during major disasters. "Protecting Worker and Community Health: Are We Prepared for the Next 9/11?" is taking place a few days after the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

"Tens of thousands of workers, residents, and volunteers are sick today -- some have died –- as a result of their exposure to contaminants that blanketed Lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn after 9/11. There is much to learn from this catastrophic experience," said Joel Shufro, executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), which has organized the event. "This conference is designed to ask, 'If 9/11 were to happen today, how would our response be different?' We think it is important to hear from those with responsibility what programs have been developed so that we don't repeat this recent history."

The conference will discuss how responders were harmed, what steps have been taken to prevent such occupational and environmental health consequences in future catastrophes, and what still needs to be done to ensure harm can be minimized in future disaster responses.

Other speakers will include Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences; Dr. David Prezant, chief medical officer at the Office of Medical Affairs for the New York City Fire Department; Dr. Joan Reibman, director of the Health and Hospitals Corporation WTC Environmental Health Center; Dr. Laura Crowley, assistant professor, Preventive Medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine; U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler; and Dr. Linda Rae Murray, president of the American Public Health Association. Prezant and Reibman are members of the World Trade Center Medical Working Group.

Policy issues to be discussed at the conference include:

  • The adequacy of the regulatory framework that is supposed to protect the health of disaster responders, residents, workers, students, and volunteers
  • Exposure assessment, risk communication, sampling, and data collection and sharing
  • Access to medical care and workers' compensation
  • Appropriateness and extent of worker emergency preparedness training

The New York AFL-CIO and numerous union locals are among the event's sponsors, which will be held at the United Federation of Teachers, 52 Broadway in Lower Manhattan. The $25 cost covers morning coffee, lunch, and handouts.

To register, go to www.NYCOSH.org. Space is limited, and advanced registration is required. For more information, call 212-227-6440.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which took effect July 1, 2011, will ensure that those with 9/11-related health problems continue to receive monitoring and treatment through at least 2015. New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg joined Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, New York City Fire Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano, and others July 1 to cut a ribbon at the Mt. Sinai Medical Center and formally open the World Trade Center Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program at Mount Sinai and the Centers for Excellence at the New York City Fire Department and Health and Hospitals Corporation's WTC Environmental Health Center.

"Today marks a new milestone in the ongoing efforts to address the health impacts wrought by the September 11th terrorist attacks," Bloomberg said. "New York City has always maintained that our nation must share the responsibility of providing this care, and with the Zadroga Act now in effect, the WTC Centers of Excellence can be assured of sustained funding to address the harm that people have suffered in the wake of the attacks. The federal government is now fully engaged in addressing the health concerns of those who answered the call on 9/11, and of the residents, area workers, and other survivors."

"Today represents the culmination of nearly 10 years of work and struggle by so many people, and I am profoundly moved as our bill -– the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act -– goes into effect," U.S. Rep. Nadler. "Nearly 10 years ago, the heroes of 9/11 risked their lives and, with phenomenal bravery, ran into burning buildings and smoldering ash to save others. And, for nearly 10 years, they have suffered ill health and death as a result. For so long, we wondered when the federal government would honor its obligations to these heroes of 9/11. Today, we demonstrate concretely, at the site of this incomparable Center of Excellence, that the United States does not forget those who have served."

Cassano said the funding provided by the act "allows us not only to continue providing critically needed medical monitoring and treatment, but sends a strong message to tends of thousands of dedicated emergency workers and volunteers that the nation has not forgotten your service."

The mayor said the latest studies indicate many of the nearly 50,000 rescue and recovery workers, Lower Manhattan residents, and area workers who have enrolled in the WTC Centers of Excellence need continued treatment and monitoring.

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