Sixteen Years after 9/11, Five First Responders Die in One Week

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Public Health Watchdog Breaking News
Public Health Watchdog Breaking News

Within just one week in February, five 9/11 first responders — three FDNY members and two NYPD employees — died from 9/11 related illnesses.

Each of these heroes rushed to the World Trade Center site in September 2001 to help in the rescue and recovery effort after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Now, 16 years later, the terrorist attacks have claimed their lives, NBC 4 New York reports.

Among those who died were firefighter Robert Newman, who succumbed to cancer. Newman spent his entire 39-year career working from a Lower East Side firehouse. EMT Rose Scott, another of the five, was buried on February 22 at Pinelawn cemetery in Farmingdale, New York.

FealGood Foundation Honors 9/11 Heroes

“Every time someone passes away, a part of me dies because I have the job of researching it and collecting data on these passing[s],” said John Feal, founder of the FealGood Foundation. “I have been to 159 wakes and funerals.” People remember the towers coming down and people lost to senseless violence, Feal said, but 16 years later, “thousands of people here in New York and across the country are sick and dying from their heroic actions.”

The FealGood Foundation is a nonprofit organization that assists first responders who have been injured in the line of duty. The foundation raised money for a 9/11 memorial on Long Island. Each etched name represents a first responder who died from a 9/11-related illness, NBC 4 New York reports. The memorial, which was last updated in September 2016, lists about 800 names. Since the update, 55 more NYPD and FDNY heroes have died, many of them from cancer.

The flag at the memorial on Long Island will forever fly at half-staff as a way of saying thank you. “This [memorial] was built so history is not distorted,” Feal said. “So that no one can take away from the heroic sacrifices these men and women did for their city and their country.”

The attorneys at Parker Waichman have worked with and for 9/11 victims in the years since the attacks to obtain health monitoring, care, and compensation. Members of the firm joined the coalition of lawmakers, survivors, health care providers and researchers, and supporters who worked for the reauthorization of the federal James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The health program was extended for 75 years.

Responders Suffer Higher Incidence of Illnesses

The collapse of the World Trade Center (WTC) towers in the September 11, 2001 attacks created a health crisis in the area surrounding ground zero. First responders, rescue, recovery and cleanup workers, volunteers, and people who lived and worked in the community were exposed to mixture of toxins released in the collapse of the twin towers. Some became ill immediately with respiratory and other symptoms, but cancers and other illnesses emerged or worsened in the years following the attacks. Cancers, in particular, took many years to develop. Toxic 9/11 exposures often exacerbated the individual’s  existing health problems.

The tower collapses released a toxic mix of asbestos, heavy metals, such as lead, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), glass fibers, pulverized concrete, and jet fuel from the planes that crashed into the towers. The levels of dioxin measured in the air near the smoldering pile “were the highest ambient measurements of dioxin ever recorded anywhere in the world.” EPA scientists found levels at least 100 times higher than those found downwind of a garbage incinerator, according to Scientific American.

Medical researchers have identified more than 50 types of cancer linked to the toxins released when the towers fell. In August 2016, the WTC Health Program reported that more than 5,400 September 11 first responders and others who lived, worked, or attended school near ground zero had developed 9/11-linked cancers. The cancer tally tripled in the two and a half years from January 2014 to June 2016.

Information from the WTC Health Program shows that respiratory symptoms, gastrointestinal symptoms, post-traumatic stress and mental health issues, and cancers (in particular prostate cancer, thyroid cancer and multiple melanoma) have affected 9/11 responders and rescue and recovery workers in greater numbers than for those their age in the general population.

The WTC Health Program, funded under the Zadroga Act, monitors more than 48,000 police officers, construction workers, volunteer firefighters, utility workers and others who worked or volunteered at Ground Zero. FDNY has its own 9/11 health program, caring for some 16,000 members.

Legal Help for Those Suffering 9/11-Related Illnesses

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer, respiratory illness or other illness linked to 9/11, please contact Parker Waichman LLP for an evaluation of your situation. To reach the firm, fill out the online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).