Streams

Bring Back the Czar!!

Monday, February 23, 2009

For an event about people made ill by exposure to the World Trade Center, you had to wonder if exposure to the blistering cold today, outside the World Trade Center might not be the healthiest undertaking, either.

New York Representatives Carol Maloney and Jerrold Nadler held a news conference in front of WTC-7, calling on the Obama administration to re-appoint Dr. John Howard as “9/11 Health Czar.” Howard was head of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, when President Bush in 2006 asked him to coordinate 9/11 the disparate screening and treatment programs. Howard was much respected by the advocacy community for pushing to expand funding and programming, even as the Bush administration largely opposed those efforts. Last summer, when Howard’s term as NIOSH head expired, he was not reappointed. He is currently working in a different division of NIOSH’s parent agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – and not taking media requests for interviews.

Paramedic Marvin Bethea, who was a first responder at Ground Zero, displays the medications he has to take following 9/11, on January 31, 2007. (Getty)

Paramedic Marvin Bethea, who was a first responder at Ground Zero, displays the medications he has to take following 9/11, on January 31, 2007. (Getty)

The C.D.C. and its parent agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, currently have no one at the helm. I asked Maloney and Nadler if they approved of Obama’s appointments there, whether they still would want a 9/11 Health Czar, and both said such a position was necessary to guarantee support for rescue, recovery and cleanup workers, as well as residents, workers, students and tourists – and all those who might not be sick yet but whose illness at some point in the future might be traced to the Twin Towers’ collapse and its aftermath.

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