World Trade Center Death Toll Increases

September 11, 2007

Felicia Dunn-JonesFelicia Dunn-Jones, 42, was a civil rights attorney from Staten Island. She had the misfortune to be in a U.S. Department of Education office a block north of the World Trade Center on 9/11. As she fled, she was coated in toxic dust containing benzene, asbestos, dioxin and other chemical agents from the WTC inferno. Five months later, she was dead. Her death now has stunning legal implications for 9/11 victims and their families.

The previously healthy lawyer died of sarcoidosis, a tissue inflammation associated with exposure to environmental hazards that starts in the lungs and then spreads through the body, producing microscopic lumps (granulomas) on vital organs, scarring them and causing death. Her death on 10 February 2002 is now the first to be recognized as being caused by the toxic cloud which hovered over Ground Zero. Her name was read for the first time today during New York City memorial services commemorating victims of the terrorist attack.

New York City's Chief Medical Examiner, Charles S. Hirsch“Exposure to World Trade Center dust on 9/11/01 contributed to her death [from sarcoidosis with cardiac involvement] and it has been ruled a homicide,” wrote New York City’s Chief Medical Examiner, Charles S. Hirsch in May 2007. “The total number of World Trade Center victims is now 2,750.” Not only does this ruling mean that Dunn-Jones’ name will be added to the WTC Memorial and read aloud at WTC memorial ceremonies, it also opens the door for the families of those who have since died or those who are now suffering with WTC-related illnesses to obtain treatment and/or compensation. For the first time, Hirsch has finally agreed to link WTC dust to 9/11 fatalities.

Detective James Zadroga and Daughter TylerannAt least 12 other people who worked at Ground Zero have died of diseases attributed to the chemicals and toxic materials which formed an omnipresent cloud during rescue and recovery efforts at the disaster scene. One of them was New York Police Department Detective James Zadroga, 34, who was the first NYPD officer to die of a WTC-related illness (black lung disease). After escaping from 7 World Trade Center as it collapsed, he spent over 470 hours digging through Ground Zero rubble in the ensuing weeks, all the while inhaling fumes and gases present in the area. Not long after finishing rescue and recovery work at the WTC, Zadroga developed symptoms such as a chronic cough and shortness of breath. Within months, he was on oxygen and taking steroids and antibiotics, which would continue until his 6 January 2006 death.

Tens of thousands of other Ground Zero workers and area residents suffer to some degree from respiratory ailments. They include firefighters, police officers, and construction workers, who are sometimes called the “walking dead.” About 70,000 people are participating in Mount Sinai Medical Center’s WTC health study; more than 60,000 report respiratory problems.

Dr. David PrezantDr. David Prezant, co-director of the New York Fire Department’s WTC medical program and deputy chief medical officer of the NYFD, performed lung function studies on 13,000 firefighters, paramedics and EMTs after 9/11; the average breathing capacity of those tested dropped by more than 11 times the normal aging process. Prezant said that many questions remain about what Ground Zero workers may face in the future, especially with regard to such latent diseases as cancer. He has called for more funding for patient monitoring.

Joseph Zadroga, father of NYPD Detective Zadroga said: “I would hope they would review all the police who got sick, including my son, and put their names on the memorial . . . They belong there just like her.”

“It was a day with no answers,” said former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani of 9/11, during today’s observances.

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Copyright ©2007

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