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Winthrop-University Hospital Finds Increased Occurrence of Nerve Damage in World Trade Center First Responders
November 17, 2016

Study supports addition of neuropathy to list of conditions covered by The Federal World Trade Center Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program

Mineola, NY – Dr. Marc Wilkenfeld, Chief of the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at Winthrop-University Hospital, discussed the findings of his latest study that was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM), which showed more than 50 percent of World Trade Center (WTC) first responders in a recent study group had neuropathy that could not be explained by other factors such as Lyme Disease, B12 deficiency, or diabetes. The results also showed two cases of upper motor neuron disease, a very rare condition. Currently, neuropathy is not among the list of conditions covered under the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

The study of 16 patients with WTC exposure found that there was a higher probability of a neuropathy diagnosis in WTC exposed patients than other patients referred for Electromyography (EMG) testing, a diagnostic procedure to assess the health of muscles and the nerve cells. This is the third study Dr. Wilkenfeld has conducted to examine the link between neuropathy rates in first responders and exposure to the dust at the WTC site.

“In 2014, we showed that the toxic dust released by the WTC collapse adversely affected nerve transmission. We were told that this was not enough evidence to warrant covering the costs for medical treatment of neuropathy in responders,” said Dr. Wilkenfeld. “The next epidemiological study we performed showed first responders and survivors of the WTC disaster experience symptoms of neuropathy at a rate 15 times higher than the normal rate. Now, with this third study, we have even further evidence showing that WTC responders developed neuropathy as a result of their WTC exposure.”

“Neuropathy is not currently covered as a WTC related medical condition, and we believe that the objective nature of this study removes any doubt that coverage is warranted,” added Dr. Wilkenfeld.

According to John Feal, the President of the FealGood Foundation, an advocate for WTC first responders, “Last year, we fought for 75 years of Healthcare for 9/11 heroes. But more importantly, we now have 75 years to get it right by adding illnesses like neuropathy that has relentlessly ravaged the 9/11 community without any discrimination or regard for title, gender or uniform.”

The responders who have neuropathy suffer from the following symptoms:

  • Leg and feet numbness
  • Legs hurt when walking
  • Unsteady when they walk
  • Burning pain in their legs and feet
  • Muscle cramps in their legs and feet
  • Prickling feelings in their legs and feet
  • Inability to discern between hot and cold water in a tub or shower
  • Feel weak all over most of the time
  • Inability to feel feet when they walk
  • Skin on feet is so dry it cracks open

For additional information or appointments, call (516) 663-8890.