July 25, 2006

Union Starts Public Registry Of September 11-Related Health Woes

Associated Press

A police union yesterday launched an online registry of officers who became sick or died after working at ground zero after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and called upon much larger screening programs to do the same.

The 23,000-member Patrolmen's Benevolent Association started its registry with an anonymous list of 25 men and women, their symptoms, their illnesses, and the length of time they spent cleaning up debris or recovering victims from the World Trade Center site after the 2001 attacks. The union said it would add more information as it came in.

The PBA president, Pat Lynch, said the registry was publicly releasing information that a much larger city registry and other medical screening programs haven't.

The registry listed three members who had worked from three to six months at the trade center site who died of post-September 11 ailments: a 43-year-old man with bile duct cancer, a 34-year-old man with pulmonary and respiratory disease, and a 47-year-old man who had a heart attack and sarcoidosis, an inflammation and scarring of the lungs that has often been reported by ground zero workers. About one-quarter of those on the list said they had sarcoidosis.

Mr. Lynch said the larger programs "have not shared the data with our members and their medical professionals." He said his members "need to know what symptoms to look for."

Mr. Lynch said he believes all worked at the trade center site, at the Staten Island landfill where more than 1 million tons of trade center debris was taken or at the city morgue.

The officers who registered so far on the site ranged in age between 32 and 52, had worked from five days to nine months on September 11 recovery work and had ailments ranging from asthma and acid reflux to throat, kidney, and brain cancer.

Mr. Lynch said he would like more detailed information from the city's registry, the largest of its kind in the nation, with more than 71,000 members, and from two screening programs run separately by the Fire Department of New York and Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Mount Sinai has examined 16,000 ground zero workers, and doctors have said that at least half of those have become sick.

"We have said since day one that an increase in cancer was a real risk to these workers due to their toxic exposures," the program said in a statement.

The program plans to release in the fall a paper describing the findings of about 10,000 workers.

Officials from the city registry and Fire Department didn't comment yesterday.

Doctors have said it is too early to definitively link the reported illnesses to ground zero exposure.