CITY CONFIRMS WTC DUST CONTRIBUTED TO DEATH
For the first time, the NYC Medical Examiner's Office has established exposure to WTC dust as a cause of death. In a letter this week, Medical Examiner Dr. Charles Hirsch said that dust from the twin towers contributed to the death of Felicia Dunn-Jones “beyond a reasonable doubt." Her name will be added to the official list of World Trade Center victims, and the official number of people who died as a result of the attack on the twin towers will be increased to 2,750. The determination could affect how the city will act in other cases of illness and death likely caused by breathing toxic particles at the site. Here are some facts of the case:
-Ms. Dunn-Jones (left), 42, a civil rights lawyer working a block from the WTC was engulfed in the debris cloud on 9/11. She developed a serious cough and showed other symptoms of impaired lung function. She died five months after the attacks in February 2002.
-An autopsy determined
sarcoidosis, a lung disease associated with environmental hazards, as the cause of death. A recent study determined the disease occurs in WTC workers at a higher rate than the general population. (Read more about sarcoidosis)
-The Medical Examiner will amend Ms. Dunn-Jones’s death certificate to indicate that exposure to WTC dust “was contributory to her death” and change the manner of death to homicide from natural causes. Dr. Hirsch stopped short of declaring that Ms. Dunn-Jones sarcoidosis was caused by the dust, citing evidence that the disease developed prior to 9/11. However, the possibly pre-existing condition was certainly made worse by the dust, and it therefore contributed to her death.
-"The city medical examiner has now accepted what thousands of people with 9/11-related illnesses and their doctors have long understood: that ground zero dust was harmful and even deadly," Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) is quoted in New York Times coverage. Click to read the Medical examiner's statement. Rep. Maloney joined Rep. Vito Fossella (R-NY) and disabled Ground Zero responders and workers at a press conference at the WTC site today. The appearance aimed to "urge the City of New York to re-examine the medical evidence in the deaths of at least 8 Ground Zero responders and determine if their deaths can be definitively linked to exposure to WTC dust, according to a press release.
According to some health experts, Ms. Dunn-Jones case is rare and people who were exposed to WTC dust but have not yet developed symptoms of sarcoidosis are unlilkely to in the future. In fact, some patients patients show stress-related symptoms that stem from their concerns about
medical problems that could develop, rather than actual medical conditions. "Most people are fine, and if they haven’t developed symptoms by now, I doubt very much they will," Dr. Joan Reibman, a pulmonologist who directs the W.T.C. Environmental Health Center at Bellevue Hospital Center, is quoted in New York Times coverage.
Read more about Ground Zero Health Issues on the VOICES website.