Better death benefits sought after fatality linked to Ground Zero work
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By THOMAS FRANK
The first evidence linking a rescuer's death to fumes created by the dust cloud after the World Trade Center's collapse on 9/11 has spurred New York union leaders to push for better death benefits for workers' families.
A coroner ruled that a New York City police detective's death Jan. 5 was "directly related" to inhaling "toxic fumes and dusts" at Ground Zero. The detective, 34-year-old James Zadroga, had spent two months after the attacks working in the Trade Center ruins and at a landfill where rubble was taken.
Michael Palladino, president of the NYPD detectives' union, said Zadroga's death was the first officially linked to the toxic dust at Ground Zero. "Unfortunately, I don't think he'll be the last," Palladino added.
The union released the Feb. 28 coroner's report Tuesday to persuade New York state lawmakers to increase death benefits for survivors of 9/11 emergency workers. Under the proposed increase, survivors would get the full salary of a rescue worker instead of only 75%, Palladino said.
Zadroga's 4-year-old daughter, Tylerann, will get about $46,500 a year for the next eight years, Palladino said. If New York pension law is changed, Tylerann would get $62,000 a year until she becomes an adult, Palladino said.
The union won support Thursday from Sens. Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez of New Jersey. The four Democrats wrote New York Gov. George Pataki and New York legislative leaders urging them to "provide Tylerann and other families the benefits they are due." The senators also wrote that Zadroga's death will likely not be the last "to be suffered by the brave Americans who rushed to ground zero."
Pataki said in a statement that he would work with lawmakers to determine if "additional actions are necessary."
Other members of Congress called on the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to speed up programs to treat Ground Zero rescue workers.
"We don't have any more time to lose, and we need a plan for how we're going to treat these people," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.
CDC spokeswoman Bernadette Burden said a treatment program for rescue workers is expected to begin this summer.
The CDC and New York health agencies and hospitals have been monitoring thousands of Ground Zero rescue workers, who were exposed to dust, diesel exhaust, pulverized cement, glass fibers and asbestos. Airborne asbestos has been linked to lung cancer and other potentially fatal respiratory diseases.