Sarah Solon

Read it in the New York Sun: WTC Dust Could Cause Cancer

This week, The New York Sun has featured back-to-back stories on the harrowing developments surrounding the health of workers, residents and school children exposed in the days after September 11, 2001.

According to the articles, not only were public school children required to return to schools a month after the attacks, seemingly assured by the EPA's promise that the air was safe, but leading doctors have today announced that the air near ground zero most likely contained carcinogens.

On Monday, the paper featured a story about Stuyvesant High School, where public school children were required to return to school one month after the attacks:

"You could smell smoke both inside and outside the building for months," another Stuyvesant graduate who is leading the student response, Lila Nordstrom, said. Ms. Nordstrom is attempting to organize all of her old high school classmates to determine the extent of the health problems, but she said it has been difficult because the college-bound students have scattered across the country. Among the graduates Ms. Nordstrom has been in touch with, "there are a lot of respiratory problems," she said, adding that her own asthma has gotten worse.

The Board of Education spent $1 million to rehabilitate Stuyvesant in the weeks following September 11. During the 2001-02 academic year, however, toxic waste was transported by trucks up West Street past the school from ground zero 24 hours a day. Cranes would then transfer the material to barges anchored in the Hudson River on the north side of the school. "Every time the crane took up a load of debris, they would drop it in the barge and a huge dust cloud would be kicked up," Ms. Nordstrom said.

The ailing health of former Stuyvesant Students doesn’t end with chronic or worsening respiratory illnesses. The Sun reports that “at least one former Stuyvesant student, Amit Friedlander, has developed Hodgkin's disease, a type of cancer, since September 11. An honors student at the school renowned for its science program, he researched the literature on his condition after he was diagnosed and discovered 'exposure to toxic pollutants' is a major risk factor for the disease.”

Monday’s article in the New York Sun – reporting on Amit Friedlander’s disclosure of Hodgkin’s disease – came just days before today’s Sun article, which reports that exposure to contaminants near ground zero in the days following September 11th may cause cancer.

Top New York doctors are concerned that the dust cloud that fell on the city after the World Trade Center attack could have contained cancer-causing agents and say individuals who breathed it should be tracked more closely for medical problems, including cancer.

A Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center oncologist, Dr. Larry Norton, said there is "every reason to expect" that the debris could have been carcinogenic.

While he stopped short of predicting higher cancer rates among those who breathed in the air, saying there was no evidence to rely on at this point, the doctor said there is enough concern about ailments, including cancers of the esophagus, head, and neck, to ramp up studies, screenings, and treatments.

While Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts to increase services and potential treatment plans for Ground Zero-related illnesses have recently been lauded by medical professionals and some politicians, many – including Dr. Irwin Redlener, the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health – still call for a more expansive and more thorough study with both federal and state funding. At a press conference at Stuyvesant High School over the weekend, surrounded by students who attended the high school in the wake of Sept. 11th, Rep. Jerrold Nadler and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer also called for increased federal and state investment in treatment and diagnostic plans aimed at those who’ve become chronically ill because of exposure to WTC dust and other contaminants.

The political pressure for increased funding should continue until the need for these monies is met. Without it, studies and solutions cannot reach those who need them – ground zero workers, minors who relied on the word of the EPA only to be exposed to contaminants that could make them chronically ill for the rest of their lives, and residents of lower Manhattan.

Cyrus has an extensive blog series on profiling the ways in which ground zero workers - ostensibly our nation's heroes - have become chronically ill because of exposure to World Trade center dust and other toxins, and now struggle to have their claims met, battling a civil justice system that is increasingly rigged against plaintiffs.

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Posted at 12:24 PM, Oct 04, 2006 in 9/11 & Ground Zero
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Isn't the EPA supposed to protect citizens from things like this?

Are you asking me to believe that the EPA didn't know?,GGLG:2006-01,GGLG:en&q=%22CHRISTINE+WHITMAN%22+epa+++%22ground+zero%22

Posted by: lee tilson | October 4, 2006 4:16 PM

If you gut the civil justice system and cripple regulatory agencies, this is what happens.

Posted by: Justinian Lane | October 4, 2006 9:39 PM