On May 28, 2017, Ray Pfeifer, a retired New York City firefighter died of cancer attributed to his work at ground zero after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Pfeifer, a 27-year FDNY veteran, spent about eight months working at the lower Manhattan site after the attacks. Nine years later, Pfeifer was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer that spread to his bones, Newsday reports.
In addition to his service with FDNY, Pfeifer also worked as a volunteer firefighter in East Meadow, New York, on Long Island. After his cancer diagnosis, Pfeifer endured years of chemotherapy and radiation; part of one of his legs was amputated, according to Newsday.
Leader in Zadroga Act Passage
Pfeifer was deeply involved with efforts to obtain health care and compensation for those who became ill because of toxic exposures on September 11 and in the cleanup and recovery efforts in the months that followed. He made more than a dozen trips to Washington DC to convince lawmakers to pass the James L. Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act, which became law in 2010 and was reauthorized in late 2015. The act was named to honor an NYPD officer who died of respiratory disease that developed as a result of his work at ground zero.
National law firm Parker Waichman has worked with and for 9/11 victims in the years since the attacks, including trips to Washington DC to lobby for the Zadroga Act.
The collapse of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001 produced a massive cloud of toxic dust containing pulverized wood, paper, jet fuel, pulverized construction materials including asbestos, glass, silica, fiberglass, and concrete; organic chemicals; benzene, dioxin, lead and other metals. The dust, debris and smoke from the burning rubble hovered over lower Manhattan, exposing first responders, rescue and recovery workers and people who lived and worked in the area to toxins, irritants, and carcinogens. Especially in the early days after the attacks, many rescue and recovery workers worked without proper protective equipment.
Many people exposed to 9/11 toxins became ill soon after 9/11, but for others, illnesses emerged over time. Toxic 9/11 exposures often contributed to the worsening of previously existing health problems.
The 2015 Zadroga reauthorization extended health benefits for 75 years—until 2090—to ensure that all those who become ill because of September 11 would have the monitoring and care they deserve. Many of those involved in the original Zadroga Act passage and the reauthorization, credit the success in part to Pfeifer’s efforts. “Ray Pfeifer was a true fighter who bravely battled fires as a New York City Firefighter and fought tirelessly for all first responders who — like him — suffered from World Trade Center related illness,” Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said. John Feal, founder of the FealGood Foundation, which helped lead the fight for the passage and later renewal of the Zadroga Act, called Pfeifer said the “epitome of dignity and class,” according to Newsday.
In other tributes to Pfeifer, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted that the city had lost “a hero,” and Sen. Chuck Schumer said, “You meet very few truly great men in your life. Ray was one of them.”
9/11 Cancer Deaths
In March, within a day of each other, Brian Falb Sr., a New York state trooper, and NYPD officer Michael Hance both died of brain cancer linked to their work at ground zero. Six other members of the NYPD and FDNY died in the same week as Falb and Hance from illnesses linked to toxic exposure at the World Trade Center site. Medical experts explain that because many cancers take years to develop, it is not surprising to see this series of cancer deaths more than 15 years after the attacks.
Medical researchers have identified more than 50 types of cancer linked to the toxins (in particular prostate cancer, thyroid cancer and multiple myeloma. As of June 30, 2016, 5,441 people enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program had been diagnosed with 6,378 separate cancers, with some people suffering more than one type of cancer. Researchers say the 9/11 community is experiencing prostate and thyroid cancers, leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma at a significantly higher rate than expected in the general population. Health experts expect 9/11 cancers to continue to emerge for years to come.
Legal Help for Those with WTC-Related Health Conditions
If you or someone you know has developed cancer or another illness that may be linked to 9/11 toxic exposure, the attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP can offer a free, no-obligation consultation on your right to compensation. To reach the firm, fill out the contact form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).