Health study begins for residents, W.T.C. workers


By Elizabeth O’Brien

The city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has launched a major effort to track people who were in the vicinity of the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001.

Lower Manhattan residents, workers, students, rescue personnel, and volunteers are eligible to participate in the voluntary health registry, which aims to follow the long-term physical and mental health of participants. People who worked on the W.T.C. cleanup at the site or in Fresh Kills but were not near either place on 9/11, are also eligible for the study.

“The more people that we get, the more accurate our data will be,” said Greg Butler, a spokesperson for the Health Department. Butler said officials hope the survey will grow into the largest of its kind in the U.S.

The city’s survey was announced last week amid growing concern and outrage over a recent report that the Environmental Protection Agency misled the public about the risks of exposure to World Trade Center dust. But the $20 million registry project, funded in part by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has been in development for more than a year.

Paul Hovitz, a member of Community Board 1, volunteered to appear in the agency’s promotional materials for the registry. Hovitz, who lives in Southbridge Towers, represents the residents in posters and brochures.

The photo shoot took more than five hours, Hovitz said. At the Health Department’s request, he brought three outfits and sat for a makeup session.

“Then it was just, click, click, click, click,” Hovitz said.

Hovitz said he volunteered his time because he believes in the health registry’s mission.

“More and more, we’re all becoming aware that we were breathing air we shouldn’t be breathing,” Hovitz said. “I think it’s really important for people to register.”

While Hovitz himself has not experienced any respiratory problems since the terror attack, his wife and daughter have, he said.

Even those who feel completely healthy are encouraged to register. No medical examinations or tests are required. Participants will be asked to complete a 30-minute telephone survey and then will be contacted periodically over the next 20 years about any health changes.

For more information, call 1-866-NYC-WTCR, the city’s information line at 311 or visit www.wtcregistry.com.