The city's health department has announced plans for what could become the largest
public-health investigation ever: a comprehensive survey to follow the health
of those people most directly exposed to 9/11's World Trade Center collapse
and the subsequent clean-up efforts.
The launching of the World Trade Center Health Registry was announced at a September
5 press conference by the city's Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner, Thomas
R. Frieden, MD, and Dr. Henry Falk, Associate Administrator for the Agency for
Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the director of the federal Centers
for Disease Control's National Center for Environmental Health.
"The effects of 9/11 are still being felt today by all New Yorkers, and
all Americans. Hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life were
in the vicinity of
the twin towers when they collapsed, and were exposed to a combination of smoke,
dust, and debris. We need to study the health of these people in order
to understand the possible health consequences related to 9/11," said
Dr. Frieden. "If you were there on 9/11, you are strongly encouraged to
sign up for the WTC Health Registry."
Dr. Falk said, "The World Trade Center Health Registry will do what no other
health survey is doing. It will record and measure the health impact of 9/11
in the broadest possible terms. The Registry is a tool for giving us health
data that could guide how we respond to this kind of disaster for generations
to come. The more people enroll - even if they feel perfectly healthy
- the better our chances will be of understanding any health effects from this
People in any one or more of the following categories are eligible to enroll
in the registry, regardless of whether they have experienced any health problems:
· People who were in a building, on the street, or on the subway south
of Chambers Street on 9/11/01;
· Workers involved in the rescue attempts, recovery, or clean-up work
at the World Trade Center site, and/or the associated recovery operations on
at any time between 9/11/01 and 6/30/02;
· Students and staff at schools (pre-K to 12) or daycare centers south
of Canal Street on 9/11/01; and
· People living south of Canal Street on 9/11/01.
If enough people enroll, city and federal health officials said, the registry
could result in an investigation as much as five times the size of the one following
the 1979 Three-Mile Island nuclear accident in Pennsylvania. That study tracked
38,000 people. Falk noted that the report based on the Three-Mile Island registry,
which was issued last year and stated that people who lived near the nuclear
plant showed no significant increase in cancer deaths, probably served to calm
a population nervous about the unknown long-term health effects of the accident.
"I plan to enroll in the World Trade Center Health Registry, and I encourage
all Battery Park City residents and workers who were here on 9/11 to step forward
and enroll too," said Timothy S. Carey, CEO and president of the Battery
Park City Authority, who was also present at the press conference.
the registry, which is being funded with $20 million in federal funds, the
city health department says it will put posters in subways and
commuter trains that read, "I was there September 11th." It will
also use billboards, direct-mail solicitations, Internet ads, and brochures
people to step
forward and enroll.
Officials stressed that all medical information collected
from individuals will be kept strictly private and confidential, and that
no medical examinations
tests will be required for participation. People can drop out of the
registry at any time.
Those who enroll in the registry will be asked to answer
a 30-minute telephone survey of where they were on 9/11, how long they were
in areas afflicted
by smoke and fumes, and whether they have had any health problems since. Registrants
will be periodically contacted to report any health changes. This information
will then be compared with that of the general population, in order to identify
any health problems possibly linked to 9/11. Ultimately, findings drawn
from the health registry should be able to allow researchers to observe patterns
that may be invisible to individual physicians.
The announcement of the survey follows closely on recent revelations that
the Environmental Protection Agency gave New Yorkers false assurances about
quality in the days after the terrorist attack. But city health officials
say that the registry was not launched in response to the recent accusations.
the registry were first announced last year.
The health registry's goal is to follow up with hundreds of thousands of
people who were directly exposed to the aftermath of the twin towers' collapse,
produced choking clouds of dust, asbestos, smoke, and fire. It will re-contact
registrants periodically over the next 20 years to track any changes in their
physical or mental health. People exposed to the WTC aftermath have already
reported symptoms of asthma, persistent cough, burning eyes, and other ailments
caused by the airborne contaminants that so thickly pervaded the downtown
area in the days following 9/11/2001.
Officials said the registry will issue quarterly reports to inform the public
about what it learns from the project. The reports will be posted online www.wtcregistry.org.
The first report is expected this fall.
The registry is a jointly funded effort of the New York City Department of
Health and Mental Hygiene, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry,
the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). RTI International,
a nonprofit research firm, will conduct the interviews.
To find out more about the WTC Health Registry and the enrollment process,
you can visit www.wtcregistry.org
or call 311 or toll-free to 1-866-NYC-WTCR (1-866-692-9827).
Sue Wilson is a journalist who writes frequently on health and science topics for such outlets as the New York Times, WNET, and UNICEF.
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