Public Citizen Urges Passage of Historic Health and Safety Legislation for Heroic September 11 Workers

 Dec. 22, 2010  

Public Citizen Urges Passage of Historic Health and Safety Legislation for Heroic Sept. 11 Workers

Statement of Alex Chasick, Policy Counsel, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division

As Congress wraps up its lame-duck session, Public Citizen urges lawmakers not to adjourn before passing the bipartisan James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. This bill will provide medical treatment for emergency personnel and other workers who risked their lives in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Police and fire personnel, emergency medical technicians, construction workers, and others went above and beyond the call of duty to help our country heal after Sept. 11, and we owe them the same.

It’s unconscionable that the Sept. 11 heroes are still fighting for treatment of medical conditions arising from their heroism. It’s beyond belief that this Congress would fail to act to deliver them the care they need.

Emergency personnel responding to the Sept. 11 attacks performed their duties near the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania in a dangerous cloud of asbestos, lead, jet fuel, smoke and other chemicals. These conditions created long-lasting physical and mental health problems, which require continuing medical care.

A recent report by the AFL-CIO found that almost 10 years later, more than 13,000 first responders are still receiving treatment for the injuries and illnesses sustained during the Sept. 11 response. The report also found that at least 100,000 other personnel were exposed to these hazards during response and cleanup efforts. This bill will set aside funding to diagnose and treat injuries and illnesses sustained by these heroic workers.

This bill has received broad bipartisan support, and the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill by a large margin earlier this year. Despite consistent support from across the political spectrum, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is threatening to hold the bill hostage and deny heroic workers this critical care.

All workers deserve a workplace free of hazards. When a national catastrophe like Sept. 11 makes such a workplace an impossibility, workers deserve medical treatment for injuries and illnesses suffered from doing their jobs. This legislation will provide aid to workers who risked their own health to save others, and Public Citizen urges the Senate to pass it.

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