By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
People who lived, worked or attended school in much of Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO during the September 11, 2001 terror attacks may be surprised to learn they have are eligible for a government program that will monitor their health and provide benefits should they become sick from the attack.
The World Trade Center Health Program is open to anyone who was present in the “New York Disaster Area” for at least four days during the time period between September 11, 2001 to January 10, 2002 and became ill as a result.
“I never even heard of this,” said one Brooklyn mom whose daughter attended an educational program in Brooklyn Heights in 2001, and whose mother developed a chronic cough after September 11.
The disaster area extends one and a half miles from the World Trade Center (WTC), and in Brooklyn includes all of the northern Heights, about half of the southern Heights, and a large chunk of DUMBO.
Students who attended schools in the disaster area – P.S. 8, Saint Ann’s School, Plymouth Church preschool, Grace Church preschool, parts of New York City College of Technology, the League Treatment Center, and several other preschools and learning centers – are eligible. A special program has been set up for kids and teens ages 11 - 18 who were physically or mentally affected by the attack.
Packer Collegiate Institute and Brooklyn Friends School are not within the zone, though it is possible that some facilities used by these schools, such as playing fields or libraries, are.
People who volunteered at a site within the zone are eligible, as are seniors who attended St. Charles Jubilee Center on Pierrepont Street, and visitors who can prove their presence through receipts or other documentation.
The collapse of the WTC released a substantial amount of toxic material into the air, in a plume that streamed right over Brooklyn Heights and across Brooklyn. Studies have shown an uptick of asthma in several Brooklyn neighborhoods since 9/11, and WTC-related illnesses including cancer continue to manifest themselves even now, according to the CDC.
The deadline to register for the program is still open. (However, the deadline to sign up for the separate September 11th Victim’s Compensation Fund is October 3, 2013 for people “who know or reasonably should have known of physical harm resulting from the September 11th attacks as of October 3, 2011.”)
Registering for the WTC Health Program involves downloading and filling out a fairly simple five-page application, and providing documents proving residence, employment , school attendance, etc. The form can then be mailed in or faxed. (Call 888-982-4748 for more information.)
People who enroll will receive a one-time free medical screening evaluation. If the exam shows you to be healthy at this time, you will not qualify for the WTC Health Program. If you later become ill, however, your registration can be reconsidered after a second exam, which you pay for yourself.
The program, established by the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010, provides free medical treatment, care and monitoring services for specific symptoms and illnesses related to exposure at the disaster sites.
The most common health problems are asthma, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, sinus congestion, laryngitis, heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux, stomach problems, anxiety, nervousness, depression, and PTSD. Many cancers are covered as well. For a complete list go to the CDC’s FAQ: www.cdc.gov/wtc/faq.html
The services are provided by clinics and hospitals that specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of 9/11-related conditions.
Benefits are also available to people who worked, lived, or attended school, childcare or senior care in the area for 30 days during the 11-month period from September 11, 2001 to July 31, 2002.
Updated July 29 to reflect that the deadline for the WTC Health program remains open, whereas there is a deadline for the seperate Victim's Compensation Fund.