“Though tragic, an autopsy linking the January death of a 9/11 policeman to the dust at the World Trade Center is fresh evidence of the valor displayed by everyone who braved those dangers in hopes of saving lives or bringing a dignified end to the anxious wait of those with loved ones in the buildings,” said LIUNA General President Terence M. O’Sullivan.
“At the same time,” O’Sullivan acknowledged, “this link undoubtedly heightens concerns among LIUNA members and others who worked at Ground Zero in the days and weeks immediately after the disaster. Certainly, if you are experiencing respiratory problems, you should make your doctor aware of the possible connection to 9/11.”
The cause of police Detective James Zadroga’s death was initially listed as pulmonary disease and respiratory failure, an uncommon cause for someone only 34 years old. The autopsy found material “consistent with dust” in his lungs, and the medical examiner concluded, “It is felt with a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the cause of death in this case was directly related to the 9/11 incident.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
The destruction of the WTC towers resulted in the release of high levels of airborne contaminants. The Environmental Protection Agency estimated that potential dust exposures ranged from 1,000 µg/m3 to >100,000 µg/m3 in the hours after the towers’ collapse. Exposures were attributed primarily to smoldering fires (until December 2001), dust resuspension and diesel exhaust from heavy equipment. WTC dust contained pulverized (alkaline) cement, glass fibers, asbestos, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polychlorinated furans and dioxins.
Under a program established at Mount Sinai Center for Occupational and Environmental Health in New York City, nearly 15,000 workers and volunteers who participated in rescue or clean-up operations at Ground Zero have been screened and are eligible for continued medical monitoring.
“The death of Detective Zadroga underscores the importance for Laborers and others who worked at the WTC site to continue to have their health monitored,” says Dr. Jim Melius, the LHSFNA’s Research Division Director and Administrator of the New York State Laborers’ Health and Safety Trust Fund. “We don’t know what health effects may occur so continued medical monitoring is essential for these people.”