After 9/11 New Yorkers were assured the air was safe by the EPA. The federal government was slow to respond with health programs to help survivors despite recognizing the worst health effects wouldn’t be seen for 10-15 years. But 15 years later cancer rates doubled.
One of the people at the forefront of efforts to get help for first responders was John Feal, a first responder who lost half his foot working at Ground Zero.
“We walked the halls of Congress for six years to get it (Zadroga Act) passed in 2010,” John Feal, executive director of the FealGood Foundation told RT. “At the time everyone was jumping up and down that it was passed, but the first words out of my mouth were ‘we’ve got more work to do.’”
“I don’t celebrate when human life is at stake, when people are sick and dying. How do you celebrate?” added Feal. “Cancer wasn’t even part of the bill when it we got it passed in 2010. We had to fight and advocate and petition the committee to get cancers added and that was a year later in 2011.”
Feal said in the beginning they didn’t have the science, they didn’t have the data but he along with survivors walked the halls of Congress and told elected officials their personal stories.
“The people who deserve the credit are the people who came to Washington, DC with me not only in 2010 but in 2015. These people are sick and dying, in wheelchairs and with oxygen tanks and on 20 to 30 medications a day,” Feal told RT.
An award-winning reporter, Eric Williams, was working downtown when the attack happened and worked in the area for years afterwards. He has since developed health problems - Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), joined the WTC Health
Program after he couldn’t breathe, and is taking four medications. He remembers the head of the EPA Christine Todd Whitman’s remarks shortly after 9/11 telling New Yorkers the “air quality is safe and acceptable.”
“I thought it was disingenuous on the part of Christine Todd Whitman, who said publicly that it was perfectly safe for first responders and for people who worked in that zone to return to work as if it was normal,” Williams told RT. “That gave a false impression to the dangers of returning to that section of town, and people are now feeling the consequences of that.”
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