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    Sept 11, 2001: The Dust Still Lingers

    9-11-01.jpgThe attack on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11th, 2001 remains one of the darkest days in American history. Our great nation was dealt a staggering blow; the grief and anger we felt as a nation touched virtually every citizen of this country on a personal level. In the days and weeks that followed, much of that grief and anger in many hearts was replaced by newfound resolution, a rekindled sense of patriotism, and a spirit of volunteerism. Nowhere was this more evident than in New York City itself, where thousands of people flocked to participate in rescue, recovery, and clean-up activities at Ground Zero.

    Unfortunately, in all the commotion and confusion following 9/11, occupational exposure to these volunteers was hardly foremost on anyone’s mind. Today, the terrible realization is coming to fruition that these rescue workers may have been exposed to toxic or deadly dust while working in Ground Zero cleanup efforts. In January 2006, retired NYPD detective James Zadroga zadroga.jpgdied from sarcoidosis, a rare disease that causes lesions on target organs such as the lungs, the liver, the skin, and lymph nodes. An Ocean County, NJ medical examiner determined three months later that his death was directly attributable to exposure from Ground Zero dust. Then, in May 2007, New York City’s chief medical examiner Dr. Charles S. Hirch officially added the name of Felicia Dunn-Jones to the list of WTC attack victims. Dunn-Jones, a dunnjones2.jpgU.S. Dept. of Education attorney, was caught in a dust cloud from the collapse of the first tower and died of sarcoidosis five months later. Her name will be included on the memorial wall of WTC attack victims when it is constructed at Ground Zero in 2009.

    Exposure to Ground Zero dust has been linked not only to sarcoidosis but other debilitating diseases as well, including pulmonary fibrosis and asthma, and unsafe levels of asbestos suggest that asbestos-related problems are not far off in the future. Workers and volunteers at Ground Zero who develop exposure-related medical problems, including mental health problems and post-traumatic stress, are covered under New York’s Workers’ Compensation Act. Other covered sites include the N.Y.C morgue, the Staten Island landfill, the Staten Island/Lower Manhattan barge, or anyone serving in Manhattan south of Pike or Canal Streets. If you or someone you know volunteered to help clean up Ground Zero between Sept. 11th, 2001, and Sept. 12th, 2002, it’s important for you to file with the state of New York, even if you aren’t feeling any adverse effects at this time. The deadline for filing has been extended until August 13th, 2008—as of May 2007, only 14,000 of an estimated 100,000 eligible people had registered, and those who fail to register by the deadline will not be eligible for benefits even if they develop symptoms at a later date Go to www.nycosh.com or call 1-866-WTC-2556 for more information or to obtain a registration form. Heroes come in many different forms, and those who are suffering today because they stepped forward to help in our nation’s time of greatest need should not be forgotten, they should be adequately compensated.

    This article was originally published in Insight, IAM LL1746 monthly newsletter, Sept 2007 edition.

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