Last September, at the New York Academy of Medicine, Dr. Roberto Lucchini of the World Trade Center Health Program at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City presented highlights from a not-yet-published paper he and his collaborators hope can guide future responses to large disasters. According to Newsweek, “[Lucchini] stated that the dangerous health consequences of the [9/11] attacks are on par with those of the nuclear accidents at Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986 and Fukushima, Japan in 2011.” However, the point of Dr. Lucchini’s presentation, which is available in its entirety here, was not to rate health consequences, but to draw lessons from the responses.
Dr. Lucchini and his collaborators looked at six major international disasters: industrial accidents that released toxic clouds in Seveso, Italy (1976) and Bhophal, India (1984); the nuclear breaches at Three Mile Island (1979), Chernobyl (1986), and Fukushima (2011); and the World Trade Center attacks (2001). Of these six, only the WTC disaster was caused by a deliberate attack.
The study looked at several elements of the disasters, including the process of exposure assessment (for resident survivors as well as workers/responders), the exposed populations, research programs that came out of the disasters, physical and mental health effects, treatment and benefits offered to victims, and emergency preparedness at the disaster site. The study found:
- Exposure assessment was uncertain in most cases; only at Seveso was “the number of exposed individuals known with reasonable certainty.”
- Victims did not benefit from “a timely or systematic strategy” in any of these events.
- Heath surveillance programs generally focused on workers and responders and to a lesser extent on residents and survivors.
- Health programs initiated after the disasters found “exposure-related physical and mental health consequences and identified the need for long-term healthcare of the affected populations.”
- Only the WTC Health Program prominently featured active outreach and benefits.
The study concludes with two key recommendations for responding to disasters in the future:
- Lifetime disaster-related health programs to serve victims
- Systematic and timely exposure assessment and identification of exposed populations
With the renewal of the Zadroga Act, Congress virtually guaranteed lifetime health programs for those affected by 9/11-related illnesses. However, as legal counsel for 9/11 victims, we have struggled to overcome a persistent problem in the identification of exposed survivors, which has prevented many from claiming the benefits they deserve.
If you were exposed to Ground Zero toxicity following 9/11, you may be eligible for health screenings, treatment and other benefits. Contact the experienced attorneys at Barasch & McGarry who have represented 9/11 survivors from the outset. Call [ln::phone] or contact our office online.