First responders' representitive:"It's the tip of the iceberg"
New York State health officials have released statistics indicating that 360 9/11 rescue workers have since died, but have also admitted that there is an overall undercount.
The New York Daily News reports that of those deaths 154 have been explained and 80 have died of various forms of cancer, mostly impacting the lungs and digestive system while others were related to blood cancers and heart and circulatory diseases.
"It's the tip of the iceberg," said David Worby, who is representing 10,000 workers - 600 with cancer - who say they got sick after working on rescue and recovery efforts.
"These statistics bear out how toxic that site was," Worby said.
The Statistics were released by the World Trade Center Responder Fatality Investigation Program.
While insisting the state is "not making judgment" on whether all the deaths were related to the toxic air around ground zero, which was filled with asbestos, mercury, lead and other contaminants, official Kitty Gelberg did say that she believes there to be an overall undercount of rescuers and workers who have died since 9/11.
In spite of the state's refusal to be drawn on whether there has been an elevation in deaths due to 9/11, it was revealed back In 2006, almost five years on from the disaster, that there has been a startling increase in cases of a particular lung scarring disease, known as sarcoidosis, among firefighters, which rose to five times the expected rate in the two years after the attacks.
At the time the New York Times reported:
"The most worrisome to medical experts are granulomatous pulmonary diseases, which show a particular type of swirling marks left on the lungs by foreign matter like dust. Doctors say the severity of the disease is often dictated by a patient's genetic makeup. The diseases include pulmonary fibrosis and sarcoidosis, a sometimes fatal disorder that can be set off when exposure to dust causes the body's immune system to attack itself. "
Medical experts have stated that it still may be at least another decade before the full effects of the attacks are witnessed as diseases may take longer to develop in some people than others. It is estimated that around 40,000 people were involved in rescue work around the World Trade Center site and the Fresh Kills landfill where debris was taken immediately following the attacks.
The number effected may be significantly more than that however given that a recent study by Mount Sinai Medical Center revealed that out of 70,000 participants, 85 percent are suffering some kind of respiratory problem.
Though the center's figures have been criticized and questioned by some, they are the only real source to go on given that the city, state and federal governments did not engage in any form of research into or treatment of 9/11 related illnesses for some time after the attacks, and still have not set about a truly committed program to do so.
Dr. Robin Herbert, Co-director of the World Trade Center Medical Monitoring Program at Mount Sinai has indicated that there may be three "waves" of illnesses experienced by ground zero workers. The first wave refers to coughing and respiratory problems, the second wave includes severe chronic lung diseases and the third wave could be fatal cancers.
Dr. Michael Baden, chief forensic pathologist for the New York State Police and the former chief medical examiner of New York City, has reviewed several ground zero-related autopsies, and has commented "Three thousand people may have died, but 100,000 others may have been exposed".
We have extensively reported on the fact that the EPA knowingly gave misleading information to residents and workers regarding the air quality in the aftermath of the attacks and how a cover up, which leads to officials at the very top, has ensued.
The heroes of 9/11 have been shunned by a government that still refuses cover the costs of healthcare for the vast majority of the stricken because to do so would be an admission of culpability.
Last month it was reported that some of the heroes who have since succumbed to dust-related illnesses will be memorialized on the NYPD's "Wall of Heroes" for officers killed in the line of duty.
Sadly, more space will be needed on that wall in the months and years to come as the officials ultimately responsible for this continuing tragedy remain unpunished.