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Change in 9/11 program could harm thousands

Firefighters on the ruins of the World Trade

Firefighters on the ruins of the World Trade Center at Ground Zero on Oct. 11, 2001. Credit: AP / Stan Honda

Don’t fix what’s not broken.

Tens of thousands of survivors and first responders are still suffering from the impacts and aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Some were injured. Others fell ill as the toxic dust took its toll.

As many as 83,000 people depend on the World Trade Center Health Program for monitoring, treatment, medications and care. But that effort is now threatened by President Donald Trump’s budget proposal, which would separate the WTC Health Program from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH, a division focused on workplace safety. The budget suggests transferring NIOSH from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the National Institutes of Health. But it would leave the WTC Health Program in the CDC, on its own.

There’s no good reason for the change, and plenty of problems with it, as Rep. Peter King argues in his fight to stop the move. NIOSH and the health program are fully intertwined. NIOSH provides management and expertise that the WTC program requires. Without them, 9/11 survivors and first responders might not get the care or medications they need. They’ll have a complicated bureaucracy to navigate, with fewer resources.

Don’t put the already precarious health of thousands at risk.