"We must make the first priority the treatment of the heroes to improve their heath and save their lives. The studies should be secondary," Joseph Zadroga, father of New York Police Department Detective James Zadroga, told a House subcommittee hearing near the World Trade Center.
Zadroga's voice broke with emotion as he recounted the day he found his son dead on his bedroom floor. James Zadroga died in January of respiratory disease attributed to ground zero exposure.
Public pressure has been growing for the government to deal with health problems blamed on the toxic dust at the site following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
In February, Joseph Zadroga told CBSNews.com that the NYPD never acknowledged his son's condition until. "He felt the loss not only from being sick but by the treatment of the police department," Zadroga said. "He felt abandoned."
A hospital study released this week concluded that nearly 70 percent of ground zero workers suffered lung problems, and many of them would likely be sick for the rest of their lives.
Dr. Robin Herbert, co-director of the Mount Sinai Medical Center program monitoring afflicted workers, told lawmakers that new patients are still arriving at her hospital to be treated for 9/11-related illnesses — and thousands will likely need lifelong care.
Meanwhile, former Environmental Protection Agency chief Christine Todd Whitman said it was New York City's responsibility — not the EPA's — to force ground zero workers to wear protective gear because the agency did not have authority over the World Trade Center site.
Many working in the wreckage in lower Manhattan did not wear masks, andin an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" that there may have been confusion over the message.
"It's hard to know — when people hear what they want to hear and there's so much going on, that maybe they didn't make the distinction," she said in the interview to air Sunday.