Hubbard detox program improving the health and quality of life for Fire Department of New York (FDNY) firefighters and emergency medical personnel who responded to the WTC attacks
Health Beat - Detoxification Clinic Offers Hope for WTC Responders
By Mary Jane Dittmar
Senior Associate Editor
Fire Engineering Magazine
Detoxification, a process through which the level of toxic chemicals in the body is reduced, has been shown to be effective in improving the health and quality of life of Fire Department of New York (FDNY) firefighters and emergency medical personnel who responded to the WTC attacks or worked there in the rescue and recovery phases. The health and overall well-being of tens of thousands of firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, and other rescue workers, have been adversely and severely affected by exposure to the multitude of toxic substances that permeated the WTC environment for weeks and months.
As of December 31, 2002, 18 responders, including union leaders and some of the most respected firefighters in FDNY, had undergone detoxification through The New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project/Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education (FASE) at Downtown Medical, P.C. a newly renovated clinic located at 139 Fulton Street.
The Scope of the Problem
"Exposures resulting from the WTC disaster are unprecedented. The toxic dust, fume and vapor that arose from the collapsing WTC and subsequent fire contained hundreds of different toxic chemicals, including dioxins, PCBs, asbestos, silica, benzene, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, manganese, chromium, lead, mercury, nickel, oxides of nitrogen and sulfur," according to Dr. James G. Dahlgren, M.D., assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Moreover, he says, "The great force generated by the collapsing towers "created ultra-fine particles of these toxins-smaller than have ever been seen before-making the 'dust' that resulted in many ways more like a gas, rendering the body mechanisms intended to protect the lungs useless."
The public health response to this serious problem has been focused primarily on respiratory distress, particularly the "World Trade Center cough."
Research on toxic exposures conducted over recent decades, the most recent pertaining to Gulf War veterans, has shown that serious health problems can develop if preventative measures are not taken.
One FDNY firefighter who had undergone the Hubbard method of detoxification used in The New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project had purple sweat come out of his body for 11 days during the process. The towel was sent for analysis; manganese--a known carcinogen-was the main substance identified.
FASE was established in 1981 as a coalition of researchers, physicians, scientist, environmentalists, and other professionals. It has participated in studies and reports of the Hubbard detoxification method, developed by L. Ron Hubbard, author and humanitarian. These documents have been published by organizations including the World Health Organization, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Society for Occupational Health, and the American Public Health Organizations.
In October 2001, FASE received calls from rescue workers concerned about the long-term effects of exposures during the WTC operations. Subsequently, representatives of FASE came to New York and met with union representatives and officials responsible for the medical care of the rescue workers. The objective of all parties was to do anything possible to help the rescue workers who were suffering.
In January 2002, Thomas Manley, the health and safety officer for the Uniformed Firefighters Association, invited Keith Miller, FASE president and founder of HealthMed Sacramento, California; David Root, M.D., FASE senior associate and board-certified occupational medicine specialist; Jim Woodworth, executive director of HealthMed, and acting director of the International Academy of Human Detoxification Specialists, to come to New York to present information on the detoxification program to FDNY medical officers. HealthMed, a not-for-profit corporation, has supervised the administration of the Hubbard detoxification program in a clinical setting to more than 3,500 individuals who were suffering from the effects of chemical exposure. They later met with local physicians qualified to deliver the program in a clinical setting, and a Project advisory board comprised of authorities in the fields of environmental medicine and public health was established.
In addition to Manley, the Project has the support of FDNY's executive chief surgeon, the executive director of Fire and Life Safety for FDNY, and Israel Miranda, health and safety co-chair for the EMTs and Paramedics of the FDNY.
Apryl McNeil, M.D., a board-certified family practice specialist and specialist in medical acupuncture, HIV medicine, and nutritional therapies, heads the clinic.
The New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Fund was established in November 2002,. It will solicit donations to cover the costs of detoxification for rescue workers and others affected by WTC exposures.
The first rescue workers entered the detoxification program in September 2002 and completed it in October 2002.
Today, the number of new arrivals is greatly increasing, predominantly the result of word-of-mouth accounts from participants. The Project has developed a protocol for a research project that will involve the health screening of 1,000 firefighters and the detoxification of 100. In addition, since many firefighters do not live in Manhattan, plans are underway to construct clinics on sites outside of Manhattan. The first will be in Hickesville, Long Island. Local contractors have agreed to build the clinic at cost.
The Hubbard detoxification methodology has been widely implemented, studied, and demonstrated to be safe and effective. Hubbard began researching the effects of radiation and chemicals on the human body in 1940s and 1950s. He developed and piloted various detoxification protocols in the 1970s, which evolved into the present methodology. The program is used extensively in drug rehabilitation, through the Narconon group.
The basic elements of the Hubbard detoxification program are the following:
Daily doses of immediate-release niacin.
Moderate aerobic exercise.
Intermittent sauna to force sweating, a primary elimination route for toxins.
Subjects take frequent showers to cool down and remove substances from the skin and prevent their reabsorption. Liquids are administered, and participants are monitored for signs of dehydration and heat exhaustion.
Ingestion of cold-pressed oils, to prevent mobilized toxins from being reabsorbed by the intestines.
Vitamin and mineral supplementation.
FDNY Detoxification Results
A participant who described himself as "depressed, angry, and sullen," and said that "there was just no enjoyment out of life anymore" came to the program "hoping to regain some sense of normalcy."
After completion of the process, he reported the following to Project personnel:
"While on the program I experienced a change in my overall attitude and my mood. The best description I can give is that I feel more comfortable in my own skin. I no longer feel tired, depressed, weak, angry, or sullen. I sleep like a baby now. My future looks bright, and I am not overwhelmed by life like I was prior to the detox and after 9/11. I had no idea how this program could have renewed every aspect of who I am! This includes physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
"I want you to know that if you have taken part in this project to help people, you certainly accomplished your goal with me. I am at a place where I never thought I would get back to again."
Another rescuer who had completed the program reported the following:
"Prior to September 11, 2001, I was in good health both mentally and physically. The attack on the WTC changed it all for me ... The effects started to manifest in October 2001. I developed significant respiratory problems, lack of energy, loss of concentration, loss of short-term memory, irritability, loss of patience and mood swings. I was so sick at times I missed approximately five to six weeks of work total. I was concerned that the department would be forced to retire me prematurely. I was taking two different steroids and an inhaler with little improvement ...."
He had learned about the detoxification program from Miranda, who introduced him to Woodworth, who explained the program. "It made sense in theory, so I decided to give it a shot," the rescuer said.
He summarized the results as follows:
"At approximately day three, I began to notice changes. I did not need to use my steroids or inhaler, nor have I had to since. This was amazing, since this was the first time in approximately 10 months I had not used an inhaler. I started feeling better physically. By day five, I noticed a pronounced change in my mental ability. My short-term memory had improved; my attitude and mood were much better.
"... As each day passed, I noticed improvement both physically and mentally. By the third week of the program, I was feeling like I did back in my college days--full of energy and mentally sharp. In summary, I feel I have benefited tremendously from this program ....
"I am committed to helping in any way possible to make this program available to my fellow rescue workers."
The daughter of a now retired firefighter from Manhattan's Rescue 1, related in a letter to the Project, at her father's request, how he, who was "worn down physically and mentally, sluggish, and sad" before starting the detoxification program became "more positive, uplifted, and hopeful" each day in the program. He had gained back his appetite, was sleeping better, and "gained energy and the desire to do things he had always enjoyed but had stopped doing. He felt his muscles strengthening, his lungs repairing, and his attitude changing. It was amazing.
"You gave us our dad back; you helped give one brave guy his health back," she concluded.
For additional information on the New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project, contact Jim Woodworth, executive director, at (212) 587-3961.
Mary Jane Dittmar is senior associate editor of Fire Engineering magazine and fireengineering.com. Before joining the magazine in 1991, she served as editor of a trade magazine in the health/nutrition market and held various positions in the educational and medical advertising fields. She has a bachelor's degree in English/journalism and a master's degree in communication arts.