NEW YORK -- Nearly 70 percent of the rescue and cleanup workers who toiled in the dust and fumes at ground zero have had trouble breathing, and many will probably be sick for the rest of their lives, doctors said yesterday in releasing results of the biggest Sept. 11 health study yet.
The Mount Sinai Medical Center study is conclusive proof of a link between recovery work at the World Trade Center ruins and long-term respiratory problems, doctors said.
``There should no longer be any doubt about the health effects of the World Trade Center. Our patients are sick," said Dr. Robin Herbert, co-director of the group that has monitored nearly 16,000 ground zero workers.
Herbert said most of the patients in the study first came to ground zero between Sept. 11 and Sept. 13, 2001, which exposed them to asbestos, pulverized concrete, mercury, and toxins that will leave them chronically sick: ``Our patients were very, very highly exposed, and are likely to suffer health consequences as a result of that for the rest of their lives."
Herbert was joined by lawmakers who accused the federal government of not doing enough to protect workers' health and not spending enough to treat them.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he had doubts about the study's findings, saying, ``I don't believe that you can say specifically a particular problem came from this particular event."
Dr. John Howard, appointed by the Bush administration in February to coordinate the various ground zero health programs, called the findings ``extremely important" and said they support other researchers' work, including a study of city firefighters.
The study, to be published tomorrow in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, focused mostly on so-called ``World Trade Center cough" in 9,442 workers examined between July 2002 and April 2004. They included construction workers, police, and firefighters and other volunteers who worked at the site, in the city morgue, or at a landfill where trade center debris was carted.