Many Upstream readers are already familiar with the World Trade Center Medical Monitoring & Treatment Program, established so that “9/11 responders can come to the program for free, confidential and regular medical monitoring examinations.” Most also have heard some of the sad facts about the significant health effects those heroic individuals are enduring as a consequence of their exposure to environmental toxins while working at Ground Zero.
In the Daily Show’s final episode of 2010, Jon Stewart took the United States Senate and the media to task for failing to give the Zadroga bill priority. James Zadroga was a first responder (NYPD) who died in 2006 of respiratory disease thought to be caused by his work following the World Trade Center bombing. (His story from CBS News is here.) Since then, the negative health consequences for many police, firefighters, emergency technicians, and cleanup crews who spent months in the wreckage has become increasingly apparent. The Zadroga bill would create a trust fund to cover the health care costs of those indivuals — a small price to pay for giant sacrifices.
* * *
The story has many angles, but one that strikes me is from these first responders’ account of how Workers Compensation administrators have denied their claims by arguing that the diseases are not the consequence of environmental toxins — illustrating one of the many ways in which our society fails to take seriously issues of environmental health and environmental justice.
My hope is that Stewart’s efforts will pay off for this second wave of 911 victims and that the story of these environmental victims will serve as a reminder to all of us about the connection between the environment and health.