Changes needed to help sick 9/11 responders, witnesses tell senators

The treatment of ill 9/11 recovery workers and the programs supporting them may be threatened unless action is taken to guarantee funding and care, witnesses told senators during a Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on Tuesday.

Thousands of responders to the World Trade Center attacks were exposed to a "toxic brew" of gases and particulates, said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the HELP Committee.

A transparent system establishing a long-term health program with appropriate oversight and accountability is needed to care for workers who became ill, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) told the committee. Gillibrand introduced legislation last year aimed at just that.

Dr. David Prezant, New York Fire Department's chief medical officer and a supporter of Gillibrand's legislation, warned that clinical services provided by a program giving treatment and monitoring to thousands of WTC-exposed responders would be halted without proper funding, necessitating the need for a long-term solution.

Martin Fullam, a 9/11 responder, told the committee of his daily struggle with an auto-immune disease he developed after the attacks, urging the senators to pass the legislation. "We responded for those in need and are counting on you to do the same," he testified.

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