A DOCTOR who championed the medical needs of thousands of firefighters, police officers and other rescue workers who breathed in the caustic dust from the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, has been honoured at a special ceremony.
Dr. Stephen M. Levin died from cancer on Tuesday at his home in Upper Grandview, New York, at the age of 70.
The service was due to be held at the Mount Sinai Medical Center, in Manhattan, which he had helped build into one of the USA’s leading institutions specializing in occupational medicine, serving as many as 4,000 patients a year. .
Dr Levin quickly spotted that in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks major support would be needed for the thousands of 'first responders' police, firefighters and medics at risk of mesothelioma and other diseases linked to breathing in so much building dust.
Almost nine out of 10 of the 10,116 firefighters and other responders at the Twin Towers attacks reported an acute cough. The government allocated more than $12 million for health screenings of the workers, more than 20,000 of whom have since been treated at the clinic, most as outpatients.
First responders risked mesothelioma (asbestosis) because of their exposure to carcinogens like asbestos and dioxin and to trillions of microscopic shards of glass.
Dr Levin pushed long and hard for a warning, even when some government officials were insisting the air was safe to breath in the days after 9/11.
His research and his voice also were instrumental in getting help to the rescue workers, including the most recent, $2.8 billion Victims Health and Compensation Fund in 2011. It is designed to provide both medical and non-medical expenses still being faced. It was just this week that a special advisory panel met to decide how to expand the scope of that Victims Fund to include certain cancers – including mesothelioma – now being faced by many First Responders.
Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Mount Sinai, said: “It’s because Dr. Levin had the Selikoff Center fully operational that the federal government turned to him and Mount Sinai to take care of the rescue workers and responders.
“The number of workers whose health he protected is in the tens of thousands. These include those whom he treated directly, but also those he protected through his advocacy and research findings.”
Dr. Levin stepped down as head of the clinic in 2006 but continued to see patients. He also went to Libby, Mont., where, according to his research, a mine extracting vermiculite — a fibrous material used for insulation — had given lung cancer to many residents, not just the miners.
In the 1990s he had played a central role in successfully lobbying New York State and federal authorities to require that respirators and vacuum hoses be provided to protect bridge workers from lead poisoning.
Levin’s memory was just one of several important topics covered at the Mesothelioma Center and Asbestos.com. The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation this week announced awarding of $500,000 in grants to help scientists and researchers in their quest to battle this cancer caused by asbestos exposure.