June 24, 2024

On WTC Health Program and lithium-ion batteries, Washington has to deliver

Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh is on a mission today in Washington to help the injured and dying as well as to prevent more injuries and deaths. She must succeed on both.

Kavanagh will be pushing for the Congress to finally and fully fund the vital WTC Health Program, which pays for medical treatment for the heroes and victims of 9/11, including many from the FDNY.

More than 100,000 responders and survivors are suffering lung ailments and maladies like cancer from exposure to the toxic plume of ash and soot and alkaline pulverized concrete, steel and glass that arose from Ground Zero when the World Trade Center was destroyed by terrorists nearly 22 years ago. While all of them were downtown on 9/11 and in the months that followed, they now live across all 50 states.

The FDNY tragically lost 343 men that day, as they ran up the stairs to save strangers. But the slow death toll from the poisonous air (that the federal government promised was safe) will soon eclipse that grim number.

The Congress can’t restore the health of these people, but it should at least pay for their medical care and the money for the WTC Health Program is running out.

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer (now the majority leader) have been outstanding on this since the earliest days from when the causation was established between exposure to the toxins and illnesses. On the House side, there’s a bipartisan effort led by Jerry Nadler and Andrew Garbarino along with freshmen Anthony D’Esposito and Dan Goldman.

Kavanagh’s voice should be heeded. People are sick and dying and their health care cannot be cut or rationed, which will happen unless the Congress puts up the money.

While WTC health care is about what happened in the past, the commissioner’s other purpose for her trip south today is to forestall future tragedies from exploding lithium-ion batteries. She will be testifying before the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s forum on lithium-ion battery safety. Kavanagh knows better than anyone that too often cheap batteries or repurposed ones can become time bombs that detonate.

The FDNY is fighting a wave of destruction caused by e-bike batteries, which in the first half of this year have caused 131 fires, 76 injuries and 13 deaths.

Joining Kavanagh at the forum will be Schumer and Gillibrand and Bronx Rep. Ritchie Torres , all of whom have been looking for answers. This is not just a New York problem, as e-bikes are everywhere. Until this year, the FDNY and other fire departments didn’t track e-bike battery fires.

Even before today’s session, Kavanagh’s alarms are being heard. The Department of Homeland Security has a Science and Technology Directorate which operates the National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (which happens to be located in New York City). Thanks to Kavanagh, the lab recently established a program to support fire agencies and other responders in better understanding the public safety impacts from lithium-ion batteries and other new energy advancements.

We think that the dangerous lithium-ion batteries must quickly be taken off the streets of the city with a buyback program or even switching to a different power source like lithium-titanate batteries, which can never explode.

This is an emergency.

The Daily News Flash

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