Researchers Say 9/11 Toxic Exposures Linked to Neuropathy

Public Health Watchdog Breaking News
Public Health Watchdog Breaking News

Doctors at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, New York, say they have definitive proof that first responders to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks acquired a nerve disease from neurotoxins they were exposed to at the World Trade Center site.

The disease, neuropathy, is not one of the conditions covered by the Zadroga Act, a federal program that provides health care monitoring and treatment and victim compensation to September 11 responders, recovery workers, and survivors, News12 Long Island reports.Zadroga Act

The Zadroga Act was passed in 2010 and signed into law by President Obama in 2011. The act was named for NYPD police officer James Zadroga, who died in January 2006 from illness caused by toxic exposures at ground zero. When the Zadroga Act was reauthorized in 2015, the World Trade Center Health Program benefits were extended for 75 years—until 2090—the New York Daily News reports. The Victim Compensation Fund was scheduled now extended for five years, to provide benefits to first responders too sick to work and to their families. Attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP have assisted many September 11 responders in advancing their claims and some were personally involved in the effort to convince Congress to reauthorize the Zadroga Act.

According to Citizens for Extension of the Zadroga Act, about 33,000 responders and survivors suffer illnesses, including chronic respiratory conditions and gastric reflux. Researchers have identified more than 50 types of cancer linked to toxins released when the twin towers fell. Some responders and survivors became ill soon after 9/11, but many 9/11-related illnesses took years to emerge. Tens of thousands of people—first responders, those who fled the buildings on 9/11, rescue and recovery workers, and local residents—were exposed to toxins. Health experts expect illnesses to continue to develop for years to come, which is why the health care and monitoring provided by the Zadroga Act remain important to so many.

In September, health experts at a symposium at the New York Academy of Medicine reported on health effects that have emerged in the 15 years since the attacks. Prostate cancer, thyroid cancer, and premature stiffening of the heart have emerged as major medical concerns for first responders and others who worked and volunteered at the World Trade Center site after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Another key health concern is asthma diagnoses in children and teenagers who were exposed to toxins during and following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The cancer tally has tripled in two and a half years, up from 1,822 cancer cases in January 2014, to 6,378 separate cancers as of June 30, 2016. Some of individuals have more one type of cancer, officials say. Researchers say the 9/11 community is experiencing five type of cancer—prostate, thyroid, leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma—at a significantly higher rate than expected in the general population.

Screening for Neuropathy

Neuropathy is the designation for conditions that result when nerves that carry messages to and from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body are damaged or diseased. Damage to these nerves interrupts communication between the brain and other parts of the body and can impair muscle movement, prevent normal sensation in the arms and legs, and cause pain.

Neuropathy can have a variety of causes, including exposure to toxins like those in the Ground Zero dust and debris, alcohol abuse, poor nutrition (in particular, vitamin B deficiency), and complications from diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and kidney failure.

First responders with symptoms of neuropathy were sent to Winthrop for a diagnostic test – electromyography–to confirm the diagnosis. A machine that measures electrical activity after nerves are stimulated tested the health of the individuals’ nerves and muscles.

The first responders say their petitions to include neuropathy among the conditions covered by the Zadroga Act health program have been turned down twice. They plan to petition again, using the results of the new study to support their request, News12 reports.

Dr. Marc Wilkenfeld, of Winthrop University Hospital, said last year he was “100 percent sure” of that September 11 toxin exposure was connected to neuropathy and is now “200 percent sure,” according to News12.

Help for 9/11 Responders with Neuropathy

If you or someone you know was exposed to toxins at Ground Zero and has developed neuropathy or other health issues, you may be entitled to care and compensation. The attorneys at Parker Waichman have helped many first responders and survivors with their claims. Please contact the firm for a free evaluation. To reach Parker Waichman, fill out the firm’s online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).