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Bad Health At World Trade Center

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Thousands of New Yorkers say they still suffer from the World Trade Center attacks - and they are reaching out to help hot lines in numbers greater than last year, The Post has learned.

Callers are seeking assistance for health complaints - ranging from respiratory ailments and pneumonia to acid reflux - that many link to the toxic plume created when the Twin Towers fell, as well as for post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.

Medical-research workers at Ground Zero report complaints of persistent asthma, sinusitis and acute nose and throat irritation.

"People calling are preoccupied with their safety. There is sleeplessness, they're having a range of unwanted memories and flashbacks, there's a fear of going into public places and substance-abuse problems," said John Draper, director of Lifenet, a New York counseling service.

Lifenet received more than 6,300 calls last month - up more than 20 percent from July 2002, he said.

Lifenet counselors say about one in seven recent callers exhibits signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. Prior to 9/11, Lifenet got about 3,000 calls a month, with one in 200 showing such symptoms.

The Fire Department says counseling cases rose from 2,106 last July to 3,003 this year. And the Police Organization Providing Peer Assistance has experienced a 30 percent increase since last year.

And they all expect a further jump with next month's second anniversary of the terror attacks.

In a recent poll of 800 lower Manhattan residents conducted by the group Downtown Rebounds, 30 percent said they still suffer respiratory problems from the events of 9/11.

Nina Lavin, who lives in a Tribeca apartment facing the WTC site, says the fine white dust that coated the area after the towers collapsed is still there, despite a cleaning last year by the Environmental Protection Agency.

"I continue to have chronic sinusitis. I have this cough all the time. My voice has this huskiness as if I'm a smoker. It's very uncomfortable and very disconcerting," she said.

"We don't frankly know what the longer-term health consequences will be," said Dr. Robin Herbert, co-director of Mount Sinai Medical Center's screening program, which last week released a study blaming 9/11 for low birth weights among babies exposed in utero.

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