James Zadroga (February 8, 1971 – January 5, 2006) was a New York City Police Department (NYPD) officer who died of a respiratory disease that has been attributed to his participation in rescue and recovery operations in the rubble of the World Trade Center following the September 11 attacks. Zadroga was the first NYPD officer whose death was attributed to exposure to his contact with toxic chemicals at the attack site.
Zadroga had joined the New York City Police Department in 1992 and attained the rank of Detective. He was a healthy non-smoker and had no known history of asthma or other respiratory conditions before spending 450 hours participating in the recovery efforts at the 9/11 attack site. Weeks after his time at the World Trade Center site, Zadroga developed a persistent cough, and, as the months progressed, he developed shortness of breath and became unable to walk distances more than 100 feet without gasping for air.
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund awarded Zadroga a monetary settlement in excess of $1M in 2004, after determining that his exposure to dust at Ground Zero had caused his respiratory illness. The New York City Police Department Medical Board approved his application for permanent disability retirement that same year, after concluding that his illness was related to dust exposure.
Cause of death
The causes of Zadroga's death are under dispute. Gerard Breton, a pathologist of the Ocean County, New Jersey medical examiner's office, conducted an autopsy in April 2006, and he reported, "It is felt with a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the cause of death in this case was directly related to the 9/11 incident." This attribution made Zadroga, 34-years-old at the time of his death, the first 9/11 responder whose death was directly linked with toxic Ground Zero substances. Breton's autopsy found what he described as "unidentified foreign materials" in Zadroga's lungs, which were identified by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, D.C. as talc, cellulose, calcium phosphate, and methacrylate plastic; However, the examination did not compare the particles found in his lungs with actual dust from the World Trade Center site.
The New York City Medical Examiners Office asserted in October 2007 that Zadroga's death was not related to his time at Ground Zero, with Chief Medical Examiner Charles Hirsch and another medical examiner signing a statement that "It is our unequivocal opinion, with certainty beyond doubt, that the foreign material in your son’s lungs did not get there as the result of inhaling dust at the World Trade Center or elsewhere". Hirsch concluded that Zadroga died from self-injection of ground drugs, with Hirsch finding severe scarring in his lungs that he determined was caused by cellulose and talc granulomas and stating (through a spokesperson) that "The lung disease he had was a consequence of injecting prescription drugs". Officials from the Chief Medical Examiner's office met with the Zadroga family to present his findings.
In response to the City Medical Examiner's autopsy results, Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg stated "We wanted to have a hero, and there are plenty of heroes, it’s just in this case, science says this was not a hero" at remarks made after receiving an award from the Harvard School of Public Health, but backed away from his earlier characterization at a news conferences stating that "This was a great N.Y.P.D. officer who dedicated himself — put his life in harm’s way hundreds of times during his career — and you can use your own definition."
A third opinion obtained by Zadroga's family later that month from Dr. Michael Baden, chief forensic pathologist of the New York State Police (and former New York City Medical Examiner), backed the original claim of WTC dust responsibility, citing the presence of glass fibers in Zadroga's lungs that could not be related to injecting drugs. James' father, Joseph, said that the medical examiner reported no "track marks on his arms or body" and that his son had taken anti-anxiety medications and painkillers including OxyContin, but had never ground up and injected the drugs.
James Zadroga Act
Then-Governor of New York George Pataki signed legislation on August 14, 2006, to expand death benefits to Ground Zero workers who die from cancer or respiratory diseases, under the presumption that the cause was due to exposure during recovery efforts. Pataki mentioned Zadroga at the bill-signing ceremony, held at the World Trade Center site.Unfortunately, the latency period often associated with diagnosing cancer has created a potential hurdle in appropriately compensating individuals who may die or become ill in the future as a result of their exposure following the 2001 tragedy.
Federal legislation intended to provide health monitoring and financial aid to sick 9/11 workers is known as the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. Its sponsors include Senator Bob Menendez and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. The original bill did not pass. The U.S. House passed a new version of the act in September 2010. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked the Senate to do the same. In a Senate vote held on December 9, 2010, Democrats were unable to break a Republican filibuster against the bill; the vote was 57 in favor of ending debate and 42 against, but 60 votes were needed for the bill to proceed to an up-or-down vote. Republicans outlined concerns around paying for the $7.4 billion bill in an appropriate way. Additionally, they also raised concerns about creating an expansive new healthcare entitlement program and re-opening the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund. Comedian Jon Stewart of The Daily Show was credited by the White House and other media and political news outlets for bringing awareness of the Republican filibuster on the Zadroga bill. The bill received final Congressional approval on December 22, 2010, and was enacted by President Obama on January 2, 2011.
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act allocated $4.2 billion to create the World Trade Center Health Program, which provides testing and treatment for people who worked in response and recovery operations as well as for other survivors of the 9/11 attacks. There are several WTC Health Program clinic locations in the New York City area as well as a national network of clinics associated with the National Responder Health Program.
Zadroga had been married. His wife, Rhonda, had died in Florida in October 2003, where Sheriff's Deputies noted the presence of needle marks on her body and the coroner's report detailed numerous drugs, including methadone (a drug typically used to ease withdrawal from opiates like heroin) in her blood.
Zadroga was honored in his hometown of North Arlington, New Jersey with the renaming of the Skyline Sports Complex, from where the Twin Towers could be seen, which became the James Zadroga Soccer Field as of September 21, 2008. The borough has also dedicated two monuments to Zadroga as part of the ceremonies.
- September 11 Attacks
- Collapse of the World Trade Center
- Health effects arising from the September 11 attacks
- World Trade Center Health Program
- As listed on the memorial stone in Zadroga Field, North Arlington, New Jersey
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- DePalma, Anthony. "Debate Revives as 9/11 Dust Is Called Fatal", The New York Times, April 14, 2006. Accessed September 13, 2008.
- Editorial. "Hirsch must explain". Daily News (New York), November 29, 2007. Accessed September 15, 2008.
- DePalma, Anthony. "City Says Prescription Misuse Caused Death of Detective Who Worked at 9/11 Site ", The New York Times, October 26, 2007. Accessed September 13, 2008.
- Johnson, Madeleine. "How Could Inhaled Dust and IV Drug Use Be Confused At Autopsy?", Scienceline, December 8, 2010. Accessed December 8, 2010.
- McFadden, Robert D. "Rejecting ’06 Finding, Report Says Detective Didn’t Die From 9/11 Dust", The New York Times, October 19, 2007. Accessed September 13, 2008.
- "City says drug use, not dust killed 9/11 hero James Zadroga." Daily News (New York), October 26, 2007. Accessed September 12, 2008.
- DePalma, Anthony. "Family in 9/11 Dust Case Visits Medical Examiner", The New York Times, October 20, 2007. Accessed September 15, 2008.
- Cardwell, Diane. "Mayor Backs Away From Questioning Dead Officer’s Heroism ", The New York Times, October 31, 2007. Accessed September 13, 2008.
- Cooper, Michael. "Pataki Signs Law Increasing Death Benefits for Ground Zero Workers", The New York Times, August 15, 2006. Accessed September 13, 2008.
- S. 3891 - 109th, James Zadroga Act of 2006 (GovTrack.us)]
- H.R. 6045 — 109th, James Zadroga Act of 2006 (GovTrack.us)]
- "H.R. 847: James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010". govtrack.us. Retrieved 2010-11-19.
- Solomon, Jesse (2010-11-19). "9/11 workers approve settlement with New York City". CNN. Retrieved 2010-11-23.
- Hernandez, Raymond (December 10, 2010). "Republicans Block U.S. Health Aid for 9/11 Workers". The New York Times. pp. A28. Retrieved 2010-12-11.
- Coburn (December 21, 2010). "The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010". Retrieved 2010-11-21.
- Madison, Lucy (December 21, 2010). "White House Lauds Jon Stewart for Pushing Passage of 9/11 Health Bill". CBS News.
- "Bloomberg urges passage of 9/11 health bill". CNN. December 20, 2010.
- "Bloomberg urges passage of 9/11 health bill". CNN. December 20, 2010.
- "World Trade Center Health Program FAQ". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 2 July 2012.
- "WTC Health Program - Find a Clinic". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 2 July 2012.
- Kahn, Jennifer. "The Complicated Death of a 911 Hero", The New Yorker, September 18, 2008. accessed September 18, 2008.
- Clunn, Nick. "Cop who died from Sept. 11 lung illness to be honored", The Record (Bergen County), September 11, 2008. Accessed September 13, 2008.
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