- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 16, 2007

The number of victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks could swell by the thousands in coming years, as more die from diseases linked to exposure to toxic dust from the collapsing towers of the World Trade Center, a New York congressman said.

“I’m afraid a lot more people are going to die,” said Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who has become an advocate for first responders, Lower Manhattan residents and others who think they were sickened by exposure to the dust.

The New York City Medical Examiner’s Office is reviewing two cases to determine whether names should be added to the official list of victims.

“If the family asks us to, we will look at any case,” office spokeswoman Ellen Borakove told United Press International.

The office, which maintains the official list of victims, has already added one name — that of Felicia Dunn-Jones, an attorney who worked a block from the World Trade Center. Mrs. Dunn-Jones, 42, died of sarcoidosis, a rare lung disease, in February 2002. In May, Mrs. Dunn-Jones officially became the 2,974th victim linked to the attacks, and Tuesday, her name was read near ground zero along with those of others who died on September 11, 2001.

One of the cases the office is reviewing is that of New York police Officer Cesar Borja, who died in January of pulmonary fibrosis, another rare lung disease. The medical examiner conducted an autopsy and is reviewing evidence, Miss Borakove said. She did not know when a decision on his case can be expected.

“We are already seeing much higher rates of all kinds of lung diseases” among people exposed, Mr. Nadler said, citing a study published last year by the Mount Sinai World Trade Center Medical Monitoring Program.

Of nearly 10,000 ground zero responders tested between July 2002 and April 2004, 69 percent reported new or worsened respiratory symptoms after being involved in the cleanup, the study found. In 59 percent of those cases, the symptoms were persistent.

Mr. Nadler said up to 30,000 people were caught in the plume of toxic dust when the twin towers collapsed, but thousands more who helped in the cleanup, or who lived, worked or attended school nearby, also were exposed.

“The total number (of those exposed) could be as high as 300,000,” he said. “The latency period for some of these lung cancers is up to 15 years. … We’re going to see a lot more in the future.”

Mr. Nadler, along with a bipartisan group of other New York lawmakers, is sponsoring a bill that would provide free medical monitoring for first responders and others exposed to the dust — and free treatment for those who get sick as a result.

The problem, he acknowledged, is that for those who do get sick, it will be difficult to know whether their illnesses directly resulted from their exposure.

“You can say statistically you are sure a lot more [got sick or died] than would have without being exposed,” Mr. Nadler said. “But it’s very difficult, almost impossible, to say with certainty that this specific person got that particular cancer because of their exposure.”

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