Entries in Sept. 11 (4)


For 9/11 Cancer Victims, Zadroga Expansion Is Bittersweet

DOUG KANTER/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The World Trade Center Health Program will now provide treatment and compensation for first responders from 9/11 victims who were diagnosed with cancer after inhaling toxic dust at Ground Zero, program administrator Dr. John Howard announced on Monday.  But many first responders say they consider the expansion bittersweet.

Cancer had not previously been part of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which set aside $4.3 billion to treat and otherwise compensate 9/11 victims.  It included asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome and lower back pain, but not cancers because the cancer link to the dust cloud and debris that hung over lower Manhattan was unclear.

"They're only about 10 years too late," said Jeffrey Stroehlein, who retired from the New York Fire Department in May 2011, two months after he was diagnosed with a type of brain cancer that affects the central nervous system.  "I'm watching people die of these diseases, these ailments, as they go on and play ping pong," he said of government officials arguing over whether cancer should be included in the Zadroga Act coverage.

Stroehlein began having headaches nearly 10 years after he worked at Ground Zero, clearing debris with the rest of the first responders after the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001.  He was diagnosed with cancer in March 2011, and underwent chemotherapy every other week for 14 weeks, followed by an intense eight-day round of chemo.

"It's kind of scary I was one of the lucky ones," he said.

Stroehlein said his highest cancer-related bill to date was more than $220,000, and he couldn't imagine what a first responder would do without good health coverage, which he was fortunate enough to have.  But the Zadroga Act would not have been able to pay for his treatment because cancer wasn't covered.

Stroehlein's last four MRIs have shown no signs of the cancer, but he doesn't like to use the phrase "cancer-free."

"I'm just a piece of the puzzle, one of thousands of first responders," he said, adding that he thinks some people probably had to foreclose on their homes to pay for cancer treatment.  "Who's going to get your house back? ... Most people don't have that money lying around."

Tom Neal, a now-retired New York Police Department detective, says he's lucky his wife convinced him to purchase a smart health care plan, which covered the doctors he needed to treat his cancer.

Neal worked on the first floor of police headquarters in downtown Manhattan on 9/11.  He said he heard an early bulletin about the attack on the radio and was able see the first World Trade Center tower on fire from the back of the NYPD building.  And then there was the dust cloud that included asbestos, lead, glass, metal and other toxins.

"People were coming back to the headquarters, and it was all throughout the building and on all the floors," he said of the dust.

Neal said NYPD headquarters' air conditioning and heating system vents weren't cleaned until 2005, so while he sat at his desk processing DNA to help identify victims, he was breathing in carcinogens for years.  He began having sinus and breathing problems as early as 2002, and doctors found a tumor in 2010 between his eyes that grew into the frontal lobe of his brain.

He said he'd had several previous injuries covered by Worker's Compensation, but he had to get cancer treatment under his own healthcare plan.  He went to a World Trade Center Health Program center for an initial exam, but they said he couldn't get treatment because he had cancer.  Instead, he had to battle with insurance companies and stress about bills and staying within his health insurance company's network.

"It's not about the money," Neal said.  "It's about the agencies and the companies that should stand up for their employees and take care of them."

After several surgeries and treatments, he says he's doing "really well" but battling some side effects of radiation.

He said he's optimistic about the Zadroga Act Expansion, but also frustrated by the slow response because he thinks agencies -- not the individual doctors -- have been "discriminating" against those with certain illnesses.

Overall, about 40,000 Sept. 11 responders and survivors receive monitoring and 20,000 get treatment for their illnesses as part of the Zadroga Act's health program.  The FealGood Foundation, founded by first responder John Feal, lists 341 9/11-related cancer deaths to date among first responders.

And as more cancer victims come forward, advocates say the value of the fund and the length of time it will be available must be expanded.  Right now, it will only last through 2016.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Poll: Half of Adults Impacted by 9/11 Still Struggle with Fear, Anxiety

ABC News Radio(NEW YORK) -- A new poll from Harris Interactive and HealthDay found that almost half of adults who were traumatized by the events of Sept. 11, 2001 are still struggling with their emotions a decade later.

The poll was conducted in late August with over 2,200 adults. Nearly a quarter of these adults suffer from worry about the safety of loved ones, and another 13 percent reported anxiety. Nineteen percent reported that they are afraid of flying.

Nearly half of those polled reported that they try to appreciate life more as a reaction to the attacks.

Slow economic recovery and natural disasters like Hurricane Irene may be frustrating the healing process for many Americans affected by 9/11, HealthDay reports.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Remember 9/11? Your Memory May Not Be as Sharp as You Think

U.S. Navy Photo by Jim Watson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- If you're over the age of 18, you can probably recall where you were on Sept. 11, 2001, when you found out that the U.S. was being attacked.

However, a new study published in the Scientific American suggests that your memories of that event may not be as vivid as you might believe they are.

New York University psychologist Elizabeth A. Phelps says that 9/11 is what's been described as a "flashbulb memory" -- that is, a sudden, traumatic event that results in highly emotional memories.  And because they have to do with emotion, Phelps contends your exact remembrances of the day and what you were doing may be flawed.

"Emotion kind of focuses you on a few details but lets you ignore other details ... emotion gives you a stronger confidence in your memory than it does necessarily in the accuracy," she explains.

So while most of us can remember a lot of what happened on that tragic day 10 years ago, chances are the strong feelings we experienced might prevent us from recalling every detail of what we did on Sept. 11.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


How Toxic Was the 9/11 Dust Cloud?

Anthony Correia/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Among the lasting images of 9/11 are those of nearly everyone and everything in the immediate vicinity of the World Trade Center covered in thick dust.

As that dust settled, health officials and scientists sought to figure out what was in it, and what the health effects of it could be.

"The dust is something we had never seen before," said Paul Lioy, director of exposure science at Rutgers University and UMDNJ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and author of Dust: The Inside Story of its Role in the September 11th Aftermath.  "It was caused by the collapse and disintegration of two very large structures."

The federal government and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey asked Lioy to collect and analyze samples of the dust and what the possible health consequences could be.  Analysis showed that the substances in the dust included cement, gypsum, asbestos, glass fibers, calcium carbonate, lead and other metal particles.

The pH of the dust was very high, meaning it was highly alkaline.

"That means it's extremely caustic and would be like inhaling powdered lye or Drano," said Dr. Philip Landrigan, dean for global health at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

The toxicity of the dust had a significant impact on the health of many first responders who were present, and those effects were especially severe among people exposed to the dust on the first day and for an extended period of time.  Research done at Mount Sinai in 2009 found that about eight percent of men and women who helped with rescue and recovery, or took part in other work at the site, reported asthma attacks.  Normally, only about four percent of the population suffers from asthma.

The New York City Department of Health said asthma risk was also increased for people who lived and worked in lower Manhattan after 9/11.

Lead and other heavy metals can be toxic to the brain, and gypsum, a component of drywall, can cause respiratory problems if it's inhaled over a prolonged period of time.  But Landrigan said two of the substances -- cement dust and asbestos -- are the most harmful.

Cement dust made up about two thirds of the overall dust, which contributed to its high alkalinity.  The effects of asbestos wouldn't be felt right away, but could become evident in the next few years.

"Asbestos is a human carcinogen," Landrigan explained.  "It causes lung cancer, laryngeal cancers and malignant mesothelioma, and these typically develop anywhere from 10 to 30 years after exposure."

While the dust was highly toxic, Lioy said it's impossible to say which specific substances contributed to the health problems since it was a mixture of things and the effects of gases couldn't be taken into account.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio