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National COSH and Local Groups Join Nationwide Fight – backed by Jon Stewart – for 9/11 Survivors and Responders

Thursday, September 24, 2015
Press Contacts: 

Roger Kerson, 734.645.0535, roger@rkcommunications.net

More Than 72,000 Nationwide Could Lose Benefits, Medical Aid if Congress Fails to Act

2,000+ at Risk in Florida, but Presidential Candidate Marco Rubio Has Not Signed on to Bipartisan Bill

 PHILADELPHIA – The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) and local safety and health groups across the nation are backing a nationwide fight to renew aid for survivors and responders to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Council said today.

“The 9/11 attacks were an assault against our entire nation, and taking care of those affected is a national responsibility,” said Barbara Rahke, chair of the National COSH Board of Directors and executive director of the Philadelphia Project on Occupational Safety and Health (PhilaPOSH). More than 1,000 9/11 survivors and responders live in Pennsylvania.

“Survivors who worked or lived near the site of the attacks – and those who came to assist in the days and weeks afterwards – were exposed to a stew of concrete dust, asbestos and other toxins which create long-lasting health hazards,” said Rahke. “Our response has to last just as long.”

In addition to the lives lost on 9/11, others have since died as a result of toxic exposures at the disaster sites. In addition, tens of thousands of survivors and responders have been diagnosed with cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

Last week, New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) Executive Director Charlene Obernauer joined former Daily Show host Jon Stewart and firefighters, first responders and family members in Washington DC to lobby for renewal of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act. On Sept. 11 2015, NYCOSH released ”Health and Hardship: Stories from 9/11’s Unsung Heroes,” a report documenting the ongoing health problems faced by 9/11 responders.

If Congress fails to act, legislation that currently aids more than 72,000 survivors and responders will expire in 2016. A bipartisan coalition is co-sponsoring the bill to renew aid. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a presidential contender, has yet to endorse the legislation, although more than 2,000 9/11 survivors and responders live in Florida and are part of the World Trade Center Health Program – more than any state outside of New York and New Jersey.

“I’m sure Sen. Rubio is pretty busy in Iowa and New Hampshire right now,” said Jeanette Smith of the South Florida Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (South Florida COSH).“But I hope he’s aware of how many people in Florida were affected by the 9/11 attacks – and how important it is to stand up for workers, survivors and their families.”

To date, Sen. Rubio has not responded to a questionnaire, distributed to all presidential candidates, from Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act. The legislation currently has bipartisan support from 46 sponsors in the Senate and 173 in the House.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) is a sponsor of the Zadroga Act, along with a bipartisan coalition that includes 10 members of Congress from Florida from both political parties.

Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act has published a “Take Action” tool on their website, Renew911Health.org, which allows visitors to look up their Senator and member of Congress to find out his or her position on the legislation. The tool also shows how many affected and injured individuals live in each state and Congressional District.

The “Take Action” tool can be downloaded and installed by other organizations supporting the campaign to aid 9/11 survivors and responders. Those affected include:

  • More than 72,000 currently enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program, living in all 50 states.
  • More than 33,000 survivors or responders who have been diagnosed with at least one injury or illness as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, including such chronic conditions as asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease, and gastroesophageal reflux disease.
  • More than 4,000 responders and survivors who have been diagnosed with cancers caused or made worse by 9/11. This number will grow larger in the years to come, making it especially crucial to continue medical monitoring for those who might be affected.

9/11 survivors and responders live in all 50 states and in 429 out of 435 Congressional districts.

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National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace. For more information, please visit coshnetwork.org. Follow us at National Council for Occupational Safety and Health on Facebook, and @NationalCOSH on Twitter.