Zadroga Act Respiratory Illnesses

World Trade Center Respiratory Illnesses | Zadroga Act Compensation for 9/11 Exposure

Those who rushed to help others after the 9/11 terrorist attacks carry more than just memories of their time in lower Manhattan, at the Pentagon, or on the ground in Shanksville, Pa. They’ve also inhaled pulverized building materials such as cement and fiberglass and toxins from burning jet fuel, reminding them of those fateful days with every difficult breath.

Even civilians caught up in the dust cloud that rolled through lower Manhattan after the Twin Towers collapsed on September 11, 2001, continue to experience respiratory illnesses. The ash — a mixture of drywall, furniture, electronics, glass, human remains, and other materials — was so thick, it clogged the filters in protective respirators. It settled inside buildings with open or shattered windows, coating belongings, and blanketed the fall streets like snow.

New York City Police Department Detective James Zadroga, a nonsmoker with no history of asthma, developed a persistent cough and shortness of breath weeks after he spent hours at Ground Zero, helping with the recovery efforts at Ground Zero. Zadroga died in 2006 at age 34 of a respiratory illness now attributed to his contact with toxic chemicals where the World Trade Center once stood.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010, named in his honor, renewed and expanded the Zadroga September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), providing financial compensation for lost and future wages for qualifying responders and survivors. The Zadroga Act also established the World Trade Center Health Program, which provides treatment and monitoring for respiratory illnesses, physical injuries, cancers, and other health conditions attributed to these terrorist attacks.

Deadly Dust

Although each of the sites exposed first responders, volunteers, and cleanup workers to a toxic mix of debris, the combination in lower Manhattan has been called especially potent. It affected responding firefighters, police personnel, New York City sanitation and transit workers, electrical workers, government employees, National Guard personnel, and volunteers from charities such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army. Civilians working, visiting, or living in that area couldn’t help but inhale the acrid brew of 10 million tons of building materials and 91,000 liters of jet fuel spewing across Battery Park City, Chinatown, Greenwich Village, and other neighborhoods south of Canal Street.

Respiratory illnesses became so prevalent among first responders at Ground Zero that the medical community referred to a particular ailment as “World Trade Center cough.” This persistent cough developed after being at the site and evolved into respiratory symptoms severe enough to warrant medical leave for at least four weeks, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

The WTC Health Program since has classified these respiratory conditions as caused by the 9/11 terrorist attacks:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic cough syndrome
  • Chronic laryngitis
  • Chronic nasopharyngitis
  • Chronic respiratory disorder due to fumes or vapors
  • Chronic rhinosinusitis
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD)
  • Interstitial lung diseases
  • Reactive airways dysfunction syndrome (RADS)
  • Sleep apnea exacerbated by or related to another condition in the list of aerodigestive disorders
  • Upper-airway hyperreactivity
  • WTC-exacerbated chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

In addition to these illnesses, the WTC Health Program recognizes the following respiratory-related cancers as caused by the attacks:

  • Cancer of accessory sinuses
    • Accessory, unspecified
    • Ethmoidal
    • Frontal
    • Maxillary
    • Overlapping lesion
    • Sphenoidal
  • Cancer of the bronchus and lung
    • Bronchus or lung, unspecified
    • Lower lobe, bronchus or lung
    • Main bronchus
    • Middle lobe, bronchus or lung
    • Overlapping lesion
    • Upper lobe, bronchus or lung
  • Cancer of the hypopharynx
    • Aryepiglottic fold, hypopharyngeal aspect
    • Hypopharynx, unspecified
    • Overlapping lesion
    • Postcricoid region
    • Posterior wall
  • Cancer of the larynx
    • Glottis
    • Laryngeal cartilage
    • Larynx, unspecified
    • Overlapping lesion
    • Subglottis
    • Supraglottis
  • Cancer of the nasopharynx
    • Anterior wall
    • Lateral wall
    • Nasopharynx, unspecified
    • Overlapping lesion
    • Posterior wall
    • Superior wall
  • Cancer of the oropharynx
    • Anterior surface of epiglottis
    • Branchial cleft
    • Lateral wall
    • Oropharynx, unspecified
    • Overlapping lesion
    • Posterior wall
    • Vallecula

Zadroga Fund Compensation Eligibility

Under the Zadroga VCF, people may be eligible for compensation for lost and future wages if they are experiencing symptoms of any of these respiratory illnesses, or if they are being treated for these illnesses.

You may qualify as a “Responder” if you performed rescue, recovery, demolition, or cleanup work, or provided other volunteer services at any of the three attack sites from September 11, 2001 through May 30, 2002, regardless of your agency affiliation or employment with a private company.

You may apply for compensation as a “Survivor” if you did not assist at a 9/11 site but lived, visited, worked, attended school, or attended any adult or youth day-care facility within the NYC Exposure Zone during these same dates. The NYC Exposure Zone covers lower Manhattan south of Canal Street, as well as southwest from East Broadway and Clinton Street and along any debris removal routes (such as barges and Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island). Please click here for a detailed map.

You also may apply for compensation as the representative of a deceased person, the parent or guardian of a minor, or guardian of a non-minor. Applications to the Zadroga VCF are open until December 31, 2020.

You do not need to prove that your respiratory illness is connected to the attacks to apply. However, if your or your loved one’s illness has not already been certified by a WTC Health Program physician, the Zadroga VCF will require additional information with the application, such as medical records.

Unless you meet certain exceptions (such as being an active firefighter with FDNY on September 11, 2001), you’ll also need to submit two forms of written proof of the victim’s presence within the NYC Exposure Zone during the specified time frame. Acceptable documents include employment records, pay stubs, personnel rosters, site credentials, utility bills, rent or mortgage receipts, school records, day-care records, and sworn or notarized affidavits attesting to the victim’s presence.

 How We Can Help With Zadroga Fund Compensation

For more than a decade, the Marcowitz Law Firm has been committed to representing people injured by toxic exposures from the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath. We’re glad to answer any questions you might have about applying for compensation from the Zadroga VCF or obtaining medical care through the WTC Health Program. Please call us now by phone or online for a free consultation.

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