WTC Injuries and Deaths: The Toll Mounts
With the 10 year anniversary of the September 11th attacks approaching, this is an appropriate time to look at some of the collateral damage sustained by New York’s Bravest and the real toll. Naturally, the first thing outsiders talk about when discussing the enormity of the loss that day is the 2,968 people who died, including 343 firefighters. However, according to the Board of Trustees, from 2002-2008 an additional 12 firefighters were granted line of duty death benefits specifically as a result of the illnesses that they contracted during the rescue and recovery work at the WTC.
During the first few years after the attacks, the majority of the rescue workers who exhibited respiratory symptoms were diagnosed with the generic “World Trade Center cough.” For many, the “cough” was the prelude to more serious conditions including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), reactive airways disease (RADS) and interstitial lung disease. A look at how and when the members of the FDNY developed their respiratory illnesses due to their toxic exposure at Ground Zero is illustrative of how insidious these latent diseases are. In the years following the attacks, the New York City Fire Department retired firefighters in record numbers for what its doctors determined to be World Trade Center-related respiratory illnesses. In fact, according to The World Trade Center Health Impacts on FDNY Rescue Workers, A Six-Year Assessment: September 2001 – September 2007, nearly four times as many firefighters were retired due to their WTC illnesses after the VCF closed than before. They continue to be found disabled as a result of their exposure. In fact, last year more firefighters were found disabled due to their WTC 911 illnesses than in any of the prior 8 years!
According to the study, in the three years prior to and including 2001, an average of 49.6 NYC firefighters retired each year for respiratory disabilities under the City’s “Lung Bill.” In stark contrast, the following statistics support the fact that exposure to the toxic WTC dust and air has caused a two- to five-fold increase in disabling respiratory illnesses. These illnesses have continued to manifest over the decade:
- 2002: 132 firefighters were retired for their lung-related illnesses (83 more than the pre-9/11 average)
- 2003: 183 firefighters were retired for their lung-related illnesses (133 more than the pre-9/11 average)
- 2004: 153 firefighters were retired for their lung-related illnesses (103 more than the pre-9/11 average)
- 2005: 134 firefighters were retired for their lung-related illnesses (84 more than the pre-9/11 average)
In June 2005, Governor Pataki signed a WTC presumptive bill for rescue workers (the September 11th Disability Bill). Starting in 2006, NYC firefighters who had worked at Ground Zero, and developed disabling respiratory illnesses, were retired under either the WTC Bill or the Lung Bill.
- 2006: A total of 160 firefighters were retired for their lung-related illnesses — 135 under the Lung Bill and an additional 25 under the new WTC Bill. This was 110 more than the pre-9/11 average.
- 2007: 152 firefighters were retired under the WTC Bill
- 2008: 191 firefighters were retired under the WTC Bill
- 2009: 188 firefighters were retired under the WTC Bill
- 2010: 269 firefighters were retired under the WTC Bill
Altogether, over 1,500 NYC firefighters have been found disabled as a result of their WTC-caused injuries. This includes more than 60 firefighters who have been retired for their Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Clearly, the final toll is not yet known. Please rest assured that we will continue to fight for your rights and the recognition of the sacrifice that you and your men made.