NEW YORK (Reuters) - Activists, including U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, put fresh pressure on New York City on Friday to compensate Ground Zero workers following the first confirmed death from inhaling the dust of the World Trade Center wreckage.
Clinton called on the city’s chief medical examiner to examine the cases of workers and downtown Manhattan residents whose deaths and illnesses could have been caused by exposure to toxins at the site of the Twin Towers collapse and at the landfill where the wreckage was taken.
This week Chief Medical Examiner Charles Hirsch ruled the death of Felicia Dunn-Jones — a lawyer who ran through the thick clouds of dust as she fled the collapsing towers on September 11, 2001 — was linked to her exposure to the dust. He included her death five months later in the official tally of September 11 victims in New York, which is now 2,750.
Victims’ rights groups said Dunn-Jones is the only victim to have received a death benefit from the Victim Compensation Fund for an illness caused by wreckage of the Twin Towers, which fell after they were struck by two hijacked airlines.
“Your recent decision to include Felicia Dunn-Jones in the official list of 9/11 victims is an important step toward acknowledging and coming to terms with the devastating and growing health impact,” Clinton said in a letter to Hirsch.
U.S. Reps. Vito Fossella, a Republican, and Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat, also urged Hirsch to review other cases of people who had fallen ill since the September 11 attacks.
“If the toxins at Ground Zero could be responsible for the death of Felicia Dunn-Jones, who was trapped in the dust cloud for one day, think about the impact the toxins must have had on rescue and recovery workers who toiled at the site for months,” Maloney said in a statement.
Marianna Pizzitola, the president of an association for retired emergency services workers, said workers who are suffering from leukemia, post-traumatic stress disorder and other illnesses are looking for “an acknowledgment from the city that their illnesses are real.”
She said emergency workers who have had to miss work due to their illnesses are sometimes not compensated because the city has been reluctant to accept claims that their illnesses were caused by their exposure to the toxic dust, rather than a pre-existing condition or something unrelated to the dust.
New York Democrats in Congress said that $50 million had been set aside for September 11 health needs in a congressional appropriations bill, which awaits the approval of President George W. Bush.