Statement from the National Safety Council

The National Safety Council applauds lawmakers for reauthorizing the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, also known as the World Trade Center Health Program, and including it in the omnibus appropriations bill. Continuing to fund the program ensures that the men and women who responded to the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Penn., on Sept. 11, 2001, receive the care and medical coverage they deserve. The funding also reinforces that occupational illness is a significant issue facing American workers today – one we must discuss with greater urgency.

An estimated 53,000 American workers die from workplace illnesses each year – 10 times the deaths from workplace injuries – but even this estimate may be low. Currently, there is no adequate tracking system for workplace illness. Part of the difficulty is that it can take years before symptoms begin to show, as has been the case with many 9/11 workers. When symptoms finally begin showing, it is often too late for effective treatment.

No comprehensive roadmap exists for identifying, tracking and reducing exposures to occupational illness risk factors. Employers should examine their workers’ exposures to risks and take steps to reduce or eliminate them. It is our hope that by funding and further developing initiatives such as the World Trade Center Health Program, we begin a greater dialog about this issue and create a plan for addressing it so lives can be saved.