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Hollis clinic hosting study of Ground Zero workers

A Hollis medical facility is working with Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan to chart the health concerns of demolition workers who helped clear debris from Ground Zero.

Hillside Manor Comprehensive Care Center, at 188-11 Hillside Ave., is serving as the Queens location for the project, where participants can receive a physical exam and fill out the questionnaires that make up the study, said Lauran Cutler, chief operating officer of the center.

The Mount Sinai program is aimed at documenting the health concerns and conditions in engineers, electricians and other construction workers who spent time at Ground Zero after the Sept. 11 attacks, said Dr. Steven Markowitz, head of the medical committee for the project.

The study also allows the workers to get a complete physical exam as well as a psychological screening by occupational medicine doctors, who are trained to handle complaints from people who work in what could be hazardous conditions, such as those at Ground Zero, Markowitz said.

"This is a free expert evaluation by an occupational medicine physician," he said. "What they like is that it is thorough and they finally get a chance to see an occupational medicine physician who can make sense of what they've been through."

The study began in July 2002 and is slated to continue through August 2003, and at least 5,000 participants have been screened so far, Markowitz said. The screenings at Hillside Manor only began about three weeks ago and about 25 participants have come through the Hollis location, he said.

"We jumped on this because we felt it was a service to the community, to be able to offer this to the locally to the community," Cutler said.

Aside from providing space for the screenings, the center is also ready to aid participants should the doctors identify any problems that would need treatment, such as asthma, Cutler said.

"Throughthe screenings, it's not unlikely that other health concerns may be identified," she said. "We're here to offer our services to treat those other health issues."

While a thorough analysis of results will be done once all the screenings are complete, participants have been showing signs of respiratory problems, including sinus pressure, sore throats and asthma, stress and some have had skin rashes, Markowitz said.

"We're seeing a lot of people who are healthy but are worried about long-term problems that may arise," he said.

Charles Marullo, a worker from Howard Beach, was on bucket duty at Ground Zero, removing debris for two days - Sept. 12 and Sept. 14. He found out about the program through his union and decided to get checked out, he said.

"We just wanted to make sure there's nothing wrong with us - just to have us on the record," he said.

The program is also aimed at creating a reference point for people who worked at the Trade Center so that if health problems arise in the future, participants will have a place to look to see how others were affected, Markowitz said.

"We understand the relation of the World Trade Center because people have been through the program," he said. "A lot of people are going to have questions about the long-term health problems and ask 'is this because I spent three months at Ground Zero?' This provides some documentation that this group has these problems."

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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