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Death By Dust

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  • Light Eye
    Dear Friends, Click the link if you don t receive the images or can t access the links. http://villagevoice.com/news/0648%2Clombardi%2C75156%2C2.html Love and
    Message 1 of 2 , Nov 30, 2006
      Dear Friends,

      Click the link if you don't receive the images or can't access the links.

      http://villagevoice.com/news/0648%2Clombardi%2C75156%2C2.html

      Love and Light.

      David

      Death by Dust
      The frightening link between the 9-11 toxic cloud and cancer
      by Kristen Lombardi
      November 28th, 2006 5:22 PM










      To date, 75 recovery workers at ground zero have been diagnosed with blood cell cancers that a half-dozen top doctors and epidemiologists have confirmed as having been likely caused by that exposure. Ernie Vallabuona is one of them.
      photo: Scott McDermott

























      See also:
      Believe 9-11 is causing cancer?
      An open thread in Power Plays It was October 6, 2004, three years after Ernie Vallebuona's three-month stint as a rescue and recovery worker at ground zero in the wake of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, and he was hunched over and trembling, racked by a pain like nothing he had experienced in his 40 years of sound health. He had just returned to his Rockland County home after finishing the midnight-to-8 a.m. shift in the NYPD vice unit, where he'd reported to work for the last six years. Vallebuona had bought some fish from a street vendor near his office, on the Lower East Side. And as he drove the 35 miles from Manhattan to New City, he chalked up a searing stomachache to food poisoning. Maybe the vendor had filleted that fish with a dirty machete? By the time he pulled into his driveway, the pain had grown excruciating, too horrible for him to even lie in bed that day. The chills swept over his body; so did the shakes. He called his doctor, who suggested ulcer medication.
      His mother advised him to forget that diagnosis and consult a specialist instead, but like a lot of young, healthy men, he didn't listen right away. Vallebuona isn't much for complaining; what ailing cop is? But for six months, he had noticed his body betraying him. His toes had reddened; his joints had stiffened. They throbbed in prickly pangs, as if glass shards were wedged underneath his skin. When his own heartbeat began to hurt, he had visited the family doctor, who diagnosed him with gout. He was told to drink cherry juice and take anti-inflammatory medicine. Neither worked. Now as his stomach convulsed, Vallebuona listened to his mother at last. Later that day, he found himself at a gastroenterologist's office in Pomona, lying on a table, watching a nurse poke at his abdomen. She felt a lump and ordered tests. It would take a month to reach a definitive diagnosis of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphoid tissue. Evidently, Vallebuona had developed a
      golf-ball-sized mass in his abdomen that had grown so fast and so quick that pieces of it were dying and depositing into his blood, causing gout-like symptoms. One week after that, he was at a Manhattan hospital, meeting his oncologist, hearing about the heavy-duty chemotherapy he would have to undergo over the next four months. At the visit, a nurse explained he had an aggressive cancer—a rare stage-three—and asked a battery of questions. Did he ever do modeling with glue?
      Did he ever handle insecticides?
      Did he ever work with chemicals like benzene? Vallebuona answered no to all the questions. He had led a clean life; before becoming a cop, he'd worked in a bank. Sitting in the examining room with him, Vallebuona's wife, Amy, finally spoke up. "What about 9-11?" she asked. "What about all that smoke and dust?" Only then did Ernie Vallebuona first consider the possibility that the events of September 11 could be the cause of his cancer.
      ---------------------------------
      This is not the story of rescue and recovery workers at ground zero getting sick with respiratory illnesses from their exposure; you have read those stories, and you have heard those cases. This is the story of 9-11 and cancer. To date, 75 recovery workers on or around what is now known as "the Pile"—the rubble that remained after the World Trade Center towers collapsed on the morning of September 11, 2001—have been diagnosed with blood cell cancers that a half-dozen top doctors and epidemiologists have confirmed as having been likely caused by that exposure. Those 75 cases have come to light in joint-action lawsuits filed against New York City on behalf of at least 8,500 recovery workers who suffer from various forms of lung illnesses and respiratory diseases—and suggest a pattern too distinct to ignore. While some cancers take years, if not decades, to develop, the blood cancers in otherwise healthy and young individuals represent a pattern that experts believe
      will likely prove to be more than circumstantial. The suits seek to prove that these 8,500 workers—approximately 20 percent of the total estimated recovery force that cleared the rubble from ground zero—all suffer from the debilitating effects of those events. The basis for the suits stems from the plaintiffs' argument that the government—in a desperate attempt to revive downtown in the wake of the catastrophic events on 9-11—failed to protect workers from cancer-causing benzene, dioxin, and other hazardous chemicals that permeated the air for months. Officials made these failures worse by falsely reassuring New Yorkers that they faced no long-term dangers from exposure to the air lingering over ground zero. "We are very encouraged that the results from our monitoring of air-quality and drinking-water conditions in both New York and near the Pentagon show that the public in these areas is not being exposed to excessive levels of asbestos or other harmful substances,"
      Christine Todd Whitman, the then administrator of the EPA, told the citizens of New York City in a press release on September 18—only seven days after the attacks. "Given the scope of the tragedy from last week, I am glad to reassure the people of New York . . . that their air is safe to breathe and the water is safe to drink." Those statements were not only false and misleading, but may even play into the basis for the city's liability for millions of dollars in the recovery workers' lawsuits. Last February, U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts cited Whitman's false statements as the basis for allowing a different class-action lawsuit to proceed—this one, against the EPA and Whitman, is on behalf of residents, office workers, and students from Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, many of whom suffer from respiratory illnesses as a result of 9-11. "No reasonable person would have thought that telling thousands of people that it was safe to return to Lower Manhattan, while
      knowing that such return could pose long-term health risks and other dire consequences, was conduct sanctioned by our laws," Batts wrote in her February 2 ruling. "Whitman's deliberate and misleading statements made to the press, where she reassured the public that the air was safe to breathe around Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, and that there would be no health risk presented to those returning to the areas, shocks the conscience." And that was before anyone knew of the apparent cancer link, first reported in the New York news media in the spring of 2004. Even more shocking is the incidence of cancer and other life-threatening illnesses that have developed among those participating in the recovery workers' lawsuits. Given the fact that some cancers are slower to develop than others, it seems likely to several doctors and epidemiologists that many more reports of cancer and serious lung illnesses will surface in the months and years to come. The fact that 8,500 recovery
      workers have already banded together to sue, only five years later—with 400 total cancer patients among their number—leads many experts to predict that these figures are likely to grow, meaning a possible death toll in the thousands. In many ways, these illnesses suggest the slow but deteriorating health issues that faced the atomic-bomb survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where thousands died in the years and decades that followed the United States' use of nuclear weapons. And that similarity has not been lost on David Worby, the 53-year-old attorney leading the joint-action suits on behalf of those workers who are already sick, and even dying. "In the end," Worby declares, "our officials might be responsible for more deaths than Osama bin Laden on 9-11."
      ---------------------------------
      In the five years since the attacks, much of the focus on the 9-11 health crisis has missed a broader question, the one that every ground zero worker fears most and the one that Ernie Vallebuona has already had to ponder: What about cancer? What if all that pulverized concrete and ground glass and caustic mist that Vallebuona inhaled while on the Pile didn't attack his lungs but instead went straight for his lymph nodes? Could this noxious mix have caused his lymphoma? No one has done a comprehensive study of the health consequences on the estimated 40,000 rescue and recovery workers who raced to ground zero after the attacks. A study by Mount Sinai Medical Center—one that received widespread media attention two months ago—released statistics on the five-year anniversary of 9-11 that focused almost exclusively on respiratory problems and bypassed any mention of cancer today. But David Worby has tracked the cancer patients among his growing client base for the last
      two years. Here are the latest tallies: Of the 8,500 people now suing the city, 400, or about 5 percent, have cancer. The biggest group by far consists of people like Vallebuona, who have blood cell cancers. Seventy-five clients suffer from lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma, and other blood cell cancers; most are men, aged 30 to 60, who appeared in perfect health just five years ago. The field of cancer research is not known for consensus. But six prominent specialists on cancer and the link to toxins—on the faculty of the nation's top medical schools and public health institutions—all come to the same conclusions when told these statistics. They are Richard Clapp and David Ozonoff, professors of environmental health at Boston University School of Public Health; Michael Thun, director of epidemiological research at the American Cancer Society; Francine Laden, assistant professor of environmental epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health; Jonathan Samet, chairman
      of the epidemiology department at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; and Charles Hesdorffer, associate professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. These doctors and epidemiologists agree that the incidence of cancer among this subset of workers sounds shockingly high, that they cannot and should not be dismissed as coincidence, and that the toxic dust cloud that hung over downtown Manhattan, and particularly the Pile, likely caused or promoted the diseases. Some even went so far as to say that the blood cancer cases, especially, indicate what could become a wave of cancer cases stemming from 9-11 over the next decades. "Those numbers seem quite outrageous," is how Hesdorffer puts it. Now at Johns Hopkins, Hesdorffer directed until last year the tumor immunotherapy program at Columbia University Medical Center, where he treated two recovery workers who got cancer post–9-11. He notes that the average healthy adult person has a 20 percent risk
      of having cancer over a lifetime. Calculate that risk over five years—the time frame from the events of 9-11 until today—and it drops to about 1 percent. Yet 5 percent of the suits' workers—1 percent of the overall worker population—have already been diagnosed with malignancies. And these patients don't include the thousands whose illnesses have yet to be recorded because they aren't participating in the lawsuits or in the World Trade Center medical-monitoring programs. What the experts find most telling are the types of cancer now emerging. They say the blood cancer cases seem too disproportionate to be random. Two percent of these workers have been diagnosed with what amounts to related diseases, none of which fall into the "high-frequency" category, which includes prostate cancer. One out of 9,000 people nationwide gets lymphoma a year; for myeloma, it's one out of 30,000. By contrast, the 75 blood cancer patients translate into several dozen new cases a year.
      "That's not just a fluke," says Ozonoff, who studies cancer clusters and toxic waste sites. Samet, a worldwide expert on smoking and cancer, notes that when so many cases of related cancers emerge, it can signal a forming cluster. "It sounds like an impressive cluster of cancer cases, and I would want to study it," he says. To be sure, the experts advise caution until more evidence is collected. They acknowledge that the data needed to draw a definite link between 9-11 and cancer don't exist. None of the cancers emerging now are the kinds that come only from toxic exposures—like, say, asbestosis, which is caused by asbestos and can take two decades to grow. This sentinel cancer would go a long way toward proving a 9-11 connection. Absent that, scientists would want to determine whether a higher proportion of cancer patients exists among the workers than in the general public. But because there are no independent data on the 40,000-strong group, they can't make this
      calculation yet. Meanwhile, the latency periods for most cancers from the time of a full-blown carcinogenic exposure to a full-blown malignancy can take years, if not decades. Says Thun, of the American Cancer Society: "It is the exception rather than the rule to have cancers develop this quickly."
      ---------------------------------
      Despite the lack of definitive data, we may still be in the midst of a cancer epidemic. Indeed, according to these experts, traditional data don't help much here because 9-11 represents such a singular exposure. No one can deny that the workers were exposed to a blend of pulverized and aerosolized toxins that had never existed in any occupational setting before. And this mix of toxins alone is enough to cause more aggressive cancers. "It's also enough to throw out prescriptions on timing," Hesdorffer adds. Back in May 2004, before most doctors even contemplated a 9-11 link to cancer, Hesdorffer provided testimony to the federal government's September 11 Victim Compensation Fund on behalf of one police officer who had developed pancreatic cancer within a year after his recovery stint. Hesdorffer finds it odd that two of his patients had been diagnosed with the rare cancer after working on the Pile. "It's strange to have two people who were subjected to the same
      exposure," he says, "developing the same cancer in the same time frame." Now that he has learned of Worby's statistics, he is convinced that "there is definitely more than a likely link between the 9-11 exposures and cancer." Francine Laden, who specializes in air pollution and cancer, agrees. Because so many of Worby's clients have blood cancers—which have faster incubation periods than tumor cancers, forming in as little as five years—Laden confirms that it's not a stretch to attribute their diseases to the dust cloud. "Blood cancers are different," she says, noting the tie between benzene and leukemia, as well as dioxin and lymphoma. "It's not beyond the realm of feasibility that these chemicals caused these cancers." Ozonoff puts it more firmly: "For an acute episode like this, it's definitely possible these blood cancers were caused by 9-11." Ozonoff echoes all five of his colleagues when he draws parallels between the aftermath of 9-11 and that of another
      massive exposure: the atomic-bombs dropped on Japan. Bomb survivors experienced excessive spikes in leukemia rates within the first five years, a surprising discovery for epidemiologists in the mid 20th century. While this outbreak resulted from radiation, both it and 9-11 involved a sudden and intense blast of carcinogens. For bomb survivors, leukemia appeared first, followed by breast and lung cancer. "That could happen with 9-11," says Samet, the Johns Hopkins epidemiology department chair. "It might be what we're seeing today." It's also possible that the carcinogens in the Trade Center dust accelerated cancers already dormant or developing in the recovery workers, epidemiologists say. According to Richard Clapp, who directed the Massachusetts Cancer Registry from 1980 to 1989, toxins can not only instigate the genes that cause cancerous cells to divide, but also hasten their dividing. That means that a person with an undetected cancer will develop it faster and in a
      more virulent manner. He calls this the "promotional effect" and says some toxins associated with 9-11 have been known to speed up lymphomas and leukemias. "The promotional effect could have happened already," he says. Either way, Clapp adds, "It's hard not to attribute these cancers to 9-11." His gut, he says, is telling him one thing: "We'll be seeing a cancer explosion from 9-11, and we're starting to see it today."
      A nurse would ask John Walcott about possible causes of his acute myelogenous leukemia. Like Vallebuona, Walcott answered no to all the questions. And like Vallebuona, he didn't connect the dots between his time at ground zero and the cancer growing in his body.
      photo: Scott McDermott
      ---------------------------------
      At 8:30 on the morning of the terrorist attacks, Ernie Vallebuona was driving with his three-year-old son, also named Ernie, to a nearby Home Depot in search of the perfect paint color for the family bathroom. Vallebuona always listens to 1010 WINS in the car, so he turned on the radio. He soon heard the incredible news that a plane had crashed into one of the twin towers. Instantly, he got the call to respond. "We're all mobilizing," his NYPD supervisor told him via cell phone. "Get to work as fast as you can." Over in Pomona, some 36 miles away from Manhattan, 37-year-old NYPD detective John Walcott was at his suburban home, killing time before a midnight tour on the narcotics unit, where he'd worked for a dozen years. He was relaxing on the couch when a friend from St. Louis called. "What the hell is going on in New York?" the friend asked, incredulously. Walcott had no idea what his friend meant. He flipped on the TV, only to see flames raging from the twin
      towers. Minutes later, he was behind the wheel of his minivan, speeding down the highway toward the World Trade Center. Some 200 miles southeast of the Trade Center site, 49-year-old Gary Acker was working in a bomb shelter dubbed the "earth station," an undisclosed location where AT&T keeps its large satellite dishes. At the time, Acker was managing the company's disaster recovery team, which restores critical communications after catastrophes. He had long viewed the post as the crowning achievement in his 31-year career, one that suited his desire to make a difference. When the first plane hit the north tower, he was sitting in an equipment room, four floors below ground, running emergency drills. No one had turned on the TV, so he remained oblivious to the events unfolding in Manhattan. His wife, Alison, called him. "Look at the TV," she said, just as the second plane hit the south tower. Acker knew that New York City officials would be calling AT&T for help.
      "Pack up your equipment," he heard his wife say, "and get ready to ride." Back in Manhattan, Jessy McCarthy was not about to roll anywhere. The Verizon field technician was sitting in his office on East 91st Street, listening to the news on the radio, when he heard about the planes hitting the towers. He froze in place, unable to pull himself away from the broadcast for hours that day. Only that afternoon did he manage to go to a nearby work site to repair phone lines. Sitting in his truck, he stared in disbelief at all the people doused in gray dust walking up Third Avenue from downtown. His eyes locked on the caravan of people who'd been caught in that cloud. By the time McCarthy was taking in this ghostly scene, Vallebuona and Walcott had joined thousands of first responders at the World Trade Center. Both arrived at the site shortly after the 110-story twin towers came crashing down, and they spent the next 15 hours sifting through the wreckage. Racing to the scene
      from the Seventh Precinct, on Pitt Street, Vallebuona encountered a giant cloud of dust and smoke so hazy and dense, he couldn't see his hand in front of his face. He circled the periphery of what he thought was the scene, following the blaring sirens and running past pumper trucks and police cruisers twisted up like discarded tin cans. The dust caked his eyes and coated his lips. It filled his nostrils with a horrible smell, like burned plastic and flesh. Vallebuona happened to have a bandanna in his pants pocket, which he wrapped across his face. It did little to ward off the rancid odor. Walcott was also experiencing the noxious effects of the chemical brew. While the massive cloud had dissipated, the crystalline particles hung in the air like speckles in a snow globe. He waded though mounds of pulverized dust, knee-deep, tasting it on his lips, spitting it out of his mouth. Without a mask, he was coughing immediately. First came the black mucus and ashen chunks, then
      the dry heaves and blood. For hours, he wiped away dark gunk dripping from his eyes. He couldn't help but think that something was wrong. But he focused on the mission at hand, on the faint hope of discovering survivors. That day, he stepped over the only human body that he would find intact—a female, burned beyond recognition, a charred bra over her face. Acker arrived on the scene 24 hours later, after driving with 11 team members up the East Coast in a company trailer equipped with satellite transmission consoles and multiplex cables. He would spend the next 33 days in and around ground zero—first setting up a satellite at 1 Police Plaza, then manning phone lines across the street from what came to be known as the Pile. The plume enveloped the area from the moment he set foot there until he left. Many nights, he'd oversee the satellite atop 1 Police Plaza, just east of ground zero, and watch as the prevailing winds subsided and the bright-blue smoke settled in. It
      hung so heavily on the city that he couldn't see the guards stationed across the street. In these early days, Acker, Vallebuona, and Walcott all struggled to protect themselves from the toxic dust. The foul odor clogged the air for the three months that Vallebuona ended up working at the site—first on the Pile, hauling rubble with buckets, then around the perimeter, providing security and escorting residents to their dust-laden homes. When he and Walcott searched the rubble as part of the initial bucket brigade, they wore nothing over their faces but surgical masks. Respirator masks came weeks into their months-long recovery work; sometimes they came with the wrong filters. Because Walcott was a detective, he ended up spending his five-month stint not just at ground zero, but also at Fresh Kills. As much as he choked on the Lower Manhattan air, he dreaded the Staten Island landfill. Walcott knew everything in the towers had fallen—desks, lights, computers. But apart
      from the occasional steel beam, the detritus that he sifted through there consisted of tiny grains of dust—no furniture pieces, no light fixtures, not even a computer mouse. At times, the detectives would take shelter in wooden sheds, in an attempt to get away from what Walcott likes to call "all that freaking bad air." One day, he was sitting in the shed with his colleagues, eating candy bars and drinking sodas, when some FBI agents entered. They were dressed in full haz-mat suits, complete with head masks, which they had sealed shut with duct tape to ward off the fumes. As Walcott took in the scene, contrasting the well-protected FBI agents with the New York cops wearing respirator masks, one thought entered his mind: What is wrong with this picture? The same thought would cross Acker's mind only fleetingly, and only after weeks of working near ground zero, while he was hacking so hard he vomited something akin to chewed-up licorice. During his first days at the
      site, he wore the painter's mask that an NYPD lieutenant had given him, but it soon became too filthy from debris. By October, he was spitting up so much gunk that he called his doctor for an antibiotics prescription. But he wouldn't leave the site; when the fumes got bad, he'd sit in the company trailer and flip on the air conditioner. That had a filter, at least. AT&T had stocked its disaster trailers with almost everything—rubber boots, hard hats, rope, a first aid kit. =8;} else if(navigator.userAgent & navigator.userAgent.toLowerCase().indexOf("msie")>=0 & (navigator.userAgent.indexOf("Windows 95")>=0 || navigator.userAgent.indexOf("Windows 98")>=0 || navigator.userAgent.indexOf("Windows NT")>=0)) {document.writeln('');document.writeln('on error resume next');document.writeln('prplgin=(IsObject(CreateObject("ShockwaveFlash.ShockwaveFlash.8")))');document.writeln('');} var
      pr_redir='http://oascentral.villagevoice.com/RealMedia/ads/click_lx.ads/www.villagevoice.com/news/2020071230/Middle/TheVoice/vv_AppleITunes_Nov06_300_News/vv_AppleITunes_Nov06_300_News.html/35356136666638653435366633373230%3F$CTURL$'; var pr_redir_def='~'; var pr_bust=Math.random(); var pr_pos=''; if(typeof(this.prInst)=='undefined'){this.prInst=1}else{this.prInst++} if(!prplgin){pr_pos='&pos=g'} var prs="ads.PointRoll.com/PRServe/?ad=g229A200611121835"+pr_pos+"&pub=vilvoice&num="+this.prInst+"&size=300_250&code=no&targ=_new&hide=~&redir="+pr_redir+"&defredir="+pr_redir_def+"&bu="+pr_bust+"&r="+Math.random(); document.write(""); //--> on error resume next prplgin=(IsObject(CreateObject("ShockwaveFlash.ShockwaveFlash.8"))) Funny, Acker thought, staring at the shelves. All this stuff, yet no one had ever considered respirators. Around this time, McCarthy was just beginning to report for recovery duty. When Verizon asked for volunteers to restore phone lines
      near ground zero, he didn't hesitate. He arrived for his first assignment in early October and wound up staying downtown for the next 13 months, going from basement to basement, moving from Wall Street skyscrapers to Chinatown walk-ups. The first thing he saw in the company terminals was the Trade Center dust, piled on top of consoles, crammed into corners. He had to wipe down the equipment with his bare hands to see the wires. The dust had an orange hue; at times, it twinkled. And it always stunk, an unforgettable smell he struggled to get past every time. Invariably, he'd find it in his hair, on his eyelashes, in his tool belt, even under his fingernails. Sometimes, he'd gaze at the ceiling and get the sense of standing in the middle of a meadow thick with pollen. He could see the soot and dust floating in the air.
      ---------------------------------
      When it occurred to these responders that they might be sacrificing their health for the sake of the cleanup—as it did to anyone who came in contact with the foul-smelling smoke and dust—they took comfort in the official word at the time. In the immediate aftermath of 9-11, the EPA issued multiple statements on the air quality downtown. All were reassuring in nature. On September 18, the day after the New York Stock Exchange reopened for business, the EPA's Whitman said the air was safe to breathe. It has turned out those words were, in fact, false. In August 2003, the EPA inspector general issued a scathing 155-page report concluding that the agency hadn't had the data to make such blanket declarations at that time. By then, more than a quarter of EPA samples showed unsafe levels of asbestos, and the agency had yet to complete tests for mercury, cadmium, lead, dioxin, and PCBs. The inspector general's report went on to disclose another disconcerting fact—that the
      White House had pressured the EPA to sanitize its warnings about ground zero. The inspector general revealed that the White House Council on Environmental Quality had taken a red pen to the agency's press releases, adding reassuring statements and deleting cautionary ones, creating the overly rosy picture that the air was clean. In reality, the 9-11 fallout was like nothing anyone had been exposed to before. Everything in the towers had been ground into dust—concrete, steel, glass, insulation, plastic, and computers. Dust analyses would detect glass shards, cement particles, cellulose fibers, asbestos, and a mixture of harmful components, including lead, titanium, barium, and gypsum. In all, the dust contained more than 100 different compounds, some of which have never been identified. And then there were the fires that smoldered for three months. They gave off not only the putrid plume, but also a blast of carcinogens—asbestos, dioxin, and polycyclic aromatic
      hydrocarbons, or PAHs. They also emitted benzene. In one disturbing analysis done by the U.S. Geological Survey, the dust had such high alkalinity levels it rivaled liquid Drano. Thomas Cahill, a physicist who sent a team to analyze the plume from a rooftop a mile away from ground zero, says he got worried once he noticed the color of the smoke had turned a fluorescent blue. That's a sure sign that ultra-fine particles (which can go deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream) were coming off the Pile and permeating the air. When his team tested the plume, the scientists found higher levels of sulfuric acid, heavy metals, and other insoluble materials than anywhere else in the world, even in the Kuwaiti oil fields. "Not nice stuff," says Cahill, a professor emeritus of physics at the University of California at Davis, who has published three papers on the 9-11 plume, "and it was all being liberated by that smoldering pile, so those people got the full force of it."
      Today, Cahill is trying to identify what exactly the recovery workers were inhaling, but the data are incomplete. He does know one thing for certain: "You'd have to stand by a busy highway for eight years to get what these people on the site got in just four weeks." He then adds, "These poor people are part of an enormous experiment, I think."
      ---------------------------------
      In May 2003, John Walcott was 39 years old. He had just become a first-time father—of his daughter, Colleen—and had proudly coached a Bedford high school hockey team to the state regionals. That spring, he had noticed his energy fade. But he figured his 16-hour days juggling the narcotics beat, hockey practice, and parenthood were finally catching up to him. Still, the fatigue would consume him for weeks. He'd fall asleep at his desk or behind the wheel. Often he'd nod off in the middle of a conversation. Then he got the diagnosis: acute myelogenous leukemia, a white-blood-cell cancer. He was ordered straight to the hospital, where he underwent chemotherapy for the next 28 days. Eventually, a nurse would ask Walcott questions similar to those put to Valle-buona, the ones meant to pinpoint the possible causes for his cancer. Like Vallebuona, Walcott answered no to all the questions. And like Vallebuona, he didn't connect the dots between his time at ground zero and
      the cancer growing in his body. Visiting him in the hospital later, his sister, Debbie, did. "John," she said, "what the hell do you think you were around at ground zero?" It was a question that Gary Acker would also have to confront that summer, in a visit to his own doctor's office. The AT&T manager had never shaken that World Trade Center cough, struggling with sore throats and lung infections for 18 months after completing his recovery work, suffering through all kinds of inhalers and antibiotic regimens. At one point, his doctor diagnosed him with sleep apnea and ordered him to wear a pilot-like mask strapped over his face at night, so as to reduce his roaring snores. It didn't work. A perennial optimist, Acker ignored any hint that his health problems were 9-11 related. In September 2002, he got the first warning that his health was deteriorating from exposure to the dust cloud when he underwent a pulmonary test for the company. He was stunned by the doctor's
      response. "How many packs of cigarettes do you smoke a day?" the doctor asked Acker. "I don't smoke. I never have in my life." "Well, you have a real breathing problem," the doctor informed him. His second warning came in the summer of 2003, as Walcott was getting chemotherapy. In August, Acker was landscaping the backyard at his home, in Columbus, New Jersey, carrying two 50-pound buckets of stones, when his body buckled under a jolt of pain. It felt as if somebody had jabbed a fishhook into his rib cage and was slowly gutting him. He allowed for the possibility of a kidney stone and paid a trip to the doctor. Days later, he got a diagnosis that would stop his heart cold: multiple myeloma, a plasma cell cancer. Already, the super- advanced cancer had eaten its way through the bone marrow in his ribs, as well as many other bones in his body. For a fleeting moment, Acker thought about that thick and foul plume hanging over the Pile; could it have caused his
      cancer? But his optimism flooded back and he focused on his treatment instead—on the chemotherapy pills that he would take twice a day for the next 28 days. Only days later, after his oncologist confirmed that his myeloma likely formed in the last two years, did he finally make the tie-in to 9-11. By the spring of 2004, Acker and Walcott had endured not only months of chemotherapy, but also stem cell transplants. They experienced a series of life-threatening infections and trips in and out of the hospital before beating their cancers into remission.
      For a fleeting moment, Gary Acker thought about that thick and foul plume hanging over the Pile; could it have caused his multiple myeloma?
      photo: Scott McDermott Meanwhile, Vallebuona had just begun noticing gout-like symptoms. They started in his big toes, which doubled in size and became hot to the touch, and then moved to his knees, joints, and chest. For six months, he went back and forth to the doctor, getting more medicine, seeking more remedies. He wouldn't doubt that diagnosis until October 2004, when the searing stomachache tipped him off to what had really been causing pain in his abdomen. When he got the cancer diagnosis, Valle-buona was relieved about one thing. His doctor had been wrong about the gout. If nothing else, at least he wouldn't have to live with that excruciating pain for the rest of his life. As Vallebuona was coming to grips with his cancer in the fall of 2004, Jessy McCarthy was still feeling healthy. The Verizon technician had managed to evade the kinds of respiratory problems that have afflicted so many ground zero workers—the cough, the sinusitis, the asthma—in the two years
      since his recovery assignment had ended. He would experience nothing to suggest the grave disease that would sneak up on him. At least not until one day in October 2004, while taking a shower, when he saw a swelling around the glands under his arm, about the size of a marble. He thought: This is not right.
      In March 2005, after a biopsy of one of his lymph nodes, Jessy McCarthy finally was given the definitive diagnosis of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. By then, the recovery workers' lawsuits had been more than a year in the making.
      photo: Scott McDermott But McCarthy didn't feel sick; there were no dizzy spells or nausea. A trip to the family doctor to ask about the lump yielded little information, just something questionable about his blood. So McCarthy plodded on with his life, holding down his full-time job, taking care of his teenage son. Suddenly, within weeks, he noticed the lump had grown, and more had developed. His lymph nodes swelled all over his body, underneath his arms, in his groin, around his neck and chest. The lumps just seemed to sprout; they grew so big that they looked like mini-baseballs. Suddenly, McCarthy found himself undergoing a battery of medical exams—CAT scans, PET scans, blood tests, and anything else that would help narrow down the possibilities. It took six months to rule out every type of lymphatic infection. In March 2005, after a biopsy of one of his lymph nodes, McCarthy finally was given the definitive diagnosis of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. By then, the recovery
      workers' lawsuits had been more than a year in the making. Back in the winter of 2004, Walcott had just survived the worst of his hospital stays, a 17-day stretch of 106-degree fevers, and was confined to his home. Months had passed since he learned that his leukemia likely resulted from his exposure to benzene while on the Pile, but he went in search of legal advice. He started with a lawyer friend, who encouraged him to keep looking. One attorney offered to take Walcott's case, as long as he put up his modest house to cover the fees. "Forget it," he said. Eventually, parents of the kids on his high school hockey team heard about his plight. During a visit, Walcott told some parents about his fruitless search. They had an idea. They could contact a trial lawyer whose son went to the same high school; his name was David Worby.
      ---------------------------------
      "I took the case as a favor," the lead attorney in the recovery workers' lawsuits says, sitting in his spacious penthouse office in White Plains. A trim man whose brown hair is graying at the temples, David Worby exudes confidence as he reclines in his chair and recalls the early days of what has become his greatest legal crusade. Long before the 9-11 suits, he had built a reputation as a gladiator lawyer on personal-injury cases; in 1989, he set a Westchester record by winning $18 million for a construction worker run down by a car. Fifteen years later, he was settling into early retirement when one of the Bedford parents told him about the ailing Walcott. "What was I supposed to do?" Worby asks. What started out as a case for one sick recovery worker quickly snowballed. Today, a team of 20 attorneys at his firm of Worby Groner Edelman Napoli & Bern is handling the suits, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, for the thousands of workers associated with the
      Trade Center cleanup—police officers, firefighters, sanitation workers, iron workers, and Latino day workers. Last month, Federal District Judge Alvin Hellerstein rejected the city's claim for immunity in the Worby lawsuits and recently capped its liability at $1 billion. The judge is expected to appoint a special master to settle the workers' claims. Worby's client list continues to grow. It now includes Vallebuona, Acker, and McCarthy, all of whom came to him after he filed the first suits in September 2004. They found out about him as most of his clients do—by word of mouth, one sick recovery worker to another, one worried spouse to another. Others have called him after hearing about the cases on TV or the radio or in the papers. Most of the clients have grown ill from respiratory problems like asthma, sinusitis, and bronchitis. But some have kidney failure, and 400 people have developed cancer. So far, 83 clients have died. The number of cancer patients has
      multiplied at a rate that Worby says he never anticipated. Back in 2004, he represented only 20 workers who had cancer. But by last March, he had watched that number soar to 200, and within six months after that, it had doubled. Now he gets at least several calls a week from clients who have just been diagnosed with some cancer. Or from new clients who have had the cancer for weeks or months. Like many trial lawyers, Worby has a penchant for talking in fervent, breathless tones, as though his words were writ large, in bright, blinking letters. Convinced that the 9-11 fallout has made for a cancer explosion, he doesn't hesitate to say so. "There is going to be a cancer catastrophe the likes of which we've never seen in this country," he says. "The numbers are going to be staggering." Perhaps it'd be easy to dismiss him as another hot-aired plaintiffs' attorney were it not for his own command of numbers. He has become something of a gumshoe epidemiologist, compiling the
      data on his cancer patients that are lacking in the larger worker population, tracking their diseases, ages, diagnosis dates, and their 9-11 exposures. "Look at the cancers my clients have," he says, flipping through a dozen pages of a document entitled "Seriously Ill Clients." It's updated every month; this one is dated September 13, 2006. The document outlines what he calls his "cancer clusters" and lists rare cancers often associated with the 9-11 toxins, such as thyroid (30 people), tongue and throat (25), testicular (16), and brain (10). He keeps a separate document on the 75 people with blood cancers. Two dozen of them have various forms of leukemia; the remaining four dozen have various forms of lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and other blood cell cancers. "If I had two blood cancers, it'd be a strong coincidence," Worby argues. "But 70? That defies coincidence. The word coincidence should not be in anyone's vocabulary." Worby contends that it wasn't just the
      unprecedented amount of toxins in the air that caused his clients to develop cancer; it was that the toxins worked together. Worby calls it a "synergistic effect," and cancer specialists say there is such a thing as toxic synergy, which occurs when chemicals combine. They can enhance the damage that the other ones would cause. Think of it this way: The benzene at ground zero may have caused Walcott's acute leukemia; the dioxin probably sped up its development. "This amount of toxicological exposure is going to speed up normal latency periods," Worby argues. He makes this assertion with the same zeal that he exhibits in the courtroom, citing medical studies on animals, rattling off the findings as if they were second nature. Why would the doctors monitoring the effects of 9-11 on people's health not understand this connection, he wonders. "Why would people not make this link?"
      ---------------------------------
      Five years after September 11, there's no doubt that the toxic dust cloud has devastated the lungs of those who participated in the Trade Center cleanup. In September, the Mount Sinai Medical Center released data from its WTC Worker and Volunteer Medical Screening Program, which has tested 17,500 recovery workers to date. In that analysis, doctors found that nearly 70 percent of the 9,500 subjects they surveyed experienced new or worsened respiratory symptoms at ground zero; close to 60 percent saw those symptoms persist for years. Doctors have seen chronic sinusitis, laryngitis, asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disorder, and disabling musculoskeletal conditions. Even the famous World Trade Center cough has lasted much longer than anticipated. "All of us have been badly surprised by the persistence and the chronicity of the World Trade Center diseases," says Robin Herbert, the director of the screening program. But at the Mount Sinai program (and at the WTC program
      of the FDNY, which declined to comment for this article), the link between the dust cloud and cancer is discussed more as a possibility than a reality. It's not that doctors aren't extremely concerned about the connection, Herbert says, given the cancer-causing agents and other toxins in the mix. While individual cancer cases may be attributed to 9-11 toxins, she says, the doctors, so far, lack full epidemiological proof linking the two. "We don't know if we're seeing a spike in cancer rates," Herbert says, as they have in the rates of respiratory illnesses. Herbert confirms that the Mount Sinai doctors have seen some workers with cancer, including unusual cancers, but says they'd expect some workers to develop malignancies over the last five years anyway. Is there more incidence of cancer among Pile workers than among those who didn't toil on the Pile? "That's the key question," she says. The Mount Sinai epidemiologists have just begun to try to answer that by launching
      an initiative to update medical records, document new diagnoses, and track less-com mon diseases like cancer. It's a slow process, with no timeline. Still, she says, "We are now aggressively investigating every case of cancer that has been reported to us." But the WTC programs—funded by the federal government—have their share of critics, who wonder how interested the doctors are in the 9-11 and cancer issue. Al O'Leary, the spokesperson for the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, says that many of its members feel as if the doctors are ignoring the signs of a growing cancer cluster. "It was our impression that no one in the medical-monitoring programs believed the cancers could be happening this early," he explains. Over the past year, the police union has fielded a steady increase in calls from members who have developed cancer since working at ground zero. Last July, the PBA started its own World Trade Center health registry for its members, listing seven cancer
      cases at the time. Today, there are 20 cases; they include the 35-year-old who worked on the Pile and at Fresh Kills and now has multiple myeloma, the 45-year-old who surveyed the Trade Center site for two years and now has leukemia, and the 41-year-old who manned the landfill morgue for three weeks and now has myeloma. "Now, don't you think this is all very suspicious?" O'Leary asks. "The medical community needs to be more open-minded about what diseases can be caused by 9-11." Some cancer specialists agree. Hesdorffer, of Johns Hopkins, still remembers the reaction to his testimony before the Victim Compensation Fund, back in 2004. He was called back about a half-dozen times to explain why he would attribute the pancreatic cancer in his two patients to the dust cloud so soon after 9-11. It was as if no one wanted to make the connection; one patient lost his claim despite the doctor's opinion. "We're in this period where no one wants to accept the link," Hesdorffer
      observes. Maybe the official denial stems from economics, from a desire to limit the amount of money owed to the thousands who have lost their health. Or maybe it has to do with politics. Admitting a link, as he points out, "would mean that the fallout from 9-11 was a lot bigger than we'd thought." What it would mean is that people got cancer from government decisions. From the decision of Whitman to lie about the air quality in Lower Manhattan, which gave the recovery workers and many other New Yorkers a false sense of security. From the decision of the White House to put Wall Street ahead of public health, which the EPA inspector general found had influenced all those rosy statements. And from the decision to let workers toil without proper respirators for weeks, or without any respirators at all.
      ---------------------------------
      For Gary Acker, now 54 and still undergoing monthly chemical drips to heal his bones, gone are the annual trips hunting for caribou in Canada and fishing for trout in the Adirondacks. Those years in the late '90s when he threw the javelin and shot put in the New York version of the Olympics seem like an adolescent memory. No longer working at AT&T, he devotes his time to trying to relax, watching mindless sitcoms on TV, anything to make himself laugh. "If I'm laughing, I'm not stressed," he says. His doctors tell him that no stress means less chance of a cancer relapse. Last year, Jessy McCarthy, now 48, had to work through his chemotherapy treatment, juggling the 72-hour drips with his job and his son for six months. He didn't have much choice; otherwise he'd lose his medical benefits. He could never afford the medical bills on his $65,000 salary; some of his medications cost $5,000 a dose. Now in remission, he continues to fix phone lines, though he knows the day
      will come when he can't anymore. Already, he has had to call for help on assignments he used to do alone. He also knows, in the back of his mind, that his cancer is the kind that will likely return, and possibly kill him. Walcott and Vallebuona, both retired from the force because of their cancer, continue to live with the side effects of their treatments—the lost feeling in their hands and feet and the extreme fatigue. While Vallebuona has undergone chemotherapy, radiation, and a stem cell transplant, he still hasn't been able to beat his lymphoma into remission. They also grapple with what they both like to call "chemo brain." The drugs left Walcott, now 42, too incoherent to witness or recall the first time his daughter learned to walk or talk. For Vallebuona, now 41, the littler things seem to escape him, like the weekend plans his wife mentioned earlier in the day. But even their foggy minds have not erased the memories of two planes hitting the World Trade Center
      on that sunny September morning, when they had woken up healthy and happy to be alive.



      ---------------------------------

      Alt i én. Få Yahoo! Mail med adressekartotek, kalender og notisblokk.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Regan Power
      The timing of this story is synchronistic for me, since I attended a meeting of the 9/11 Truth Campaign in Torquay, England last night, at which the guest
      Message 2 of 2 , Nov 30, 2006
        The timing of this story is synchronistic for me, since I attended a
        meeting of the 9/11 Truth Campaign in Torquay, England last night, at which
        the guest speaker was William (Willi) Rodriguez, the celebrated "Last Man
        Out" of the WTC on that fateful day. A brief account of the meeting was
        given in the local Western Morning News and is reproduced below.

        The article states:
        "He believes a bomb went off in the basement of the north tower moments
        before the first plane hit the building. And he says his evidence regarding
        this event was covered up during the (9/11 Commission) investigation.

        Mr. Rodriguez alleges intelligence services decided not to act to stop the
        attacks, to provide the US Government with a motive for invading Iraq.

        'I believe 9/11 was sponsored government terrorism,' he said."

        The article omits to mention that Willi is now campaigning for the
        creation of an international Truth Commission to conduct an objective and
        impartial (i.e. honest) investigation the 9/11 attacks - something which has
        proven unobtainable in the USA. He has already received support for this
        idea from a number of national governments, although notably not from the
        British Government however.

        Naturally Willi got buried in dust when one of the towers collapsed
        on top of him. However, he still seemed as strong as an ox when I met him
        last night - perhaps another of the many miracles which he believes happened
        to him on that day and subsequently.

        Regan

        ____________________________________________________
        Western Morning News – Thurs 30th Nov 2006

        Last Man Out of twin towers speaks of his anger after terrorist attack

        9/11 hero brings his grim story to region

        Interview and Report by Louise Vennells

        The last man out of one of New York’s twin towers before it collapsed has
        told a Westcountry audience of his harrowing experiences as he rescued
        scores of people from the building.

        Maintenance man William Rodriguez entered the north tower of the World Trade
        Centre three times after planes struck on September 11, to try to save his
        friends who worked in the restaurant on the top floor.

        “It was like a scene from The Towering Inferno,” he said. “Pieces of rock
        were falling all over us.”

        He described scenes of horrific carnage, with office workers trapped in
        lifts and throwing themselves out of windows. And he told how one woman was
        cut in two by a falling pane of glass after he helped her escape.

        Mr. Rodriguez, originally from Puerto Rico, never reached the workers he
        intended to help, but he thinks he saved more than 100 others as he unlocked
        doors between corridors using his master key.

        The building collapsed as Mr. Rodriguez made a final attempt to find his
        friends. He only survived by hurling himself under a fire engine. Rescue
        workers dug him out of the rubble.

        Mr. Rodriguez was hailed as a hero by the city of New York and the bush
        administration, and he has helped set up a range of family support groups
        since the terrorist atrocity.

        He campaigned for an investigation into what happened, and claims he put his
        trust in the 9/11 Commission which was set up to fulfil the role. But he has
        branded its findings a “whitewash”, and is dedicated to challenging the
        accepted version of events.

        He is touring the world with his story, and spoke to an audience in Torquay’s
        Riviera International Centre last night.

        He believes a bomb went off in the basement of the north tower moments
        before the first plane hit the building. And he says his evidence regarding
        this event was covered up during the investigation.

        Mr. Rodriguez alleges intelligence services decided not to act to stop the
        attacks, to provide the US Government with a motive for invading Iraq.

        “I believe 9/11 was sponsored government terrorism,” he said.

        Read William Rodriguez’s full story in Saturday’s Western Morning News

        ----- Original Message -----
        From: Light Eye
        To: GS5555@... ; ufodiscussion@yahoogroups.com ;
        changingplanetchat@yahoogroups.com ; astrosciences@yahoogroups.com ;
        giuliano.marinkovic@... ; wayfarer9@... ;
        parascience@...
        Sent: Thursday, November 30, 2006 8:00 PM
        Subject: [ufodiscussion] Death By Dust


        Dear Friends,

        Click the link if you don't receive the images or can't access the links.

        http://villagevoice.com/news/0648%2Clombardi%2C75156%2C2.html

        Love and Light.

        David

        Death by Dust
        The frightening link between the 9-11 toxic cloud and cancer
        by Kristen Lombardi
        November 28th, 2006 5:22 PM


        To date, 75 recovery workers at ground zero have been diagnosed with blood
        cell cancers that a half-dozen top doctors and epidemiologists have
        confirmed as having been likely caused by that exposure. Ernie Vallabuona is
        one of them.
        photo: Scott McDermott


        See also:
        Believe 9-11 is causing cancer?
        An open thread in Power Plays It was October 6, 2004, three years after
        Ernie Vallebuona's three-month stint as a rescue and recovery worker at
        ground zero in the wake of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, and he was hunched
        over and trembling, racked by a pain like nothing he had experienced in his
        40 years of sound health. He had just returned to his Rockland County home
        after finishing the midnight-to-8 a.m. shift in the NYPD vice unit, where
        he'd reported to work for the last six years. Vallebuona had bought some
        fish from a street vendor near his office, on the Lower East Side. And as he
        drove the 35 miles from Manhattan to New City, he chalked up a searing
        stomachache to food poisoning. Maybe the vendor had filleted that fish with
        a dirty machete? By the time he pulled into his driveway, the pain had grown
        excruciating, too horrible for him to even lie in bed that day. The chills
        swept over his body; so did the shakes. He called his doctor, who suggested
        ulcer medication.
        His mother advised him to forget that diagnosis and consult a specialist
        instead, but like a lot of young, healthy men, he didn't listen right away.
        Vallebuona isn't much for complaining; what ailing cop is? But for six
        months, he had noticed his body betraying him. His toes had reddened; his
        joints had stiffened. They throbbed in prickly pangs, as if glass shards
        were wedged underneath his skin. When his own heartbeat began to hurt, he
        had visited the family doctor, who diagnosed him with gout. He was told to
        drink cherry juice and take anti-inflammatory medicine. Neither worked. Now
        as his stomach convulsed, Vallebuona listened to his mother at last. Later
        that day, he found himself at a gastroenterologist's office in Pomona, lying
        on a table, watching a nurse poke at his abdomen. She felt a lump and
        ordered tests. It would take a month to reach a definitive diagnosis of
        non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphoid tissue. Evidently,
        Vallebuona had developed a
        golf-ball-sized mass in his abdomen that had grown so fast and so quick that
        pieces of it were dying and depositing into his blood, causing gout-like
        symptoms. One week after that, he was at a Manhattan hospital, meeting his
        oncologist, hearing about the heavy-duty chemotherapy he would have to
        undergo over the next four months. At the visit, a nurse explained he had an
        aggressive cancer—a rare stage-three—and asked a battery of questions. Did
        he ever do modeling with glue?
        Did he ever handle insecticides?
        Did he ever work with chemicals like benzene? Vallebuona answered no to all
        the questions. He had led a clean life; before becoming a cop, he'd worked
        in a bank. Sitting in the examining room with him, Vallebuona's wife, Amy,
        finally spoke up. "What about 9-11?" she asked. "What about all that smoke
        and dust?" Only then did Ernie Vallebuona first consider the possibility
        that the events of September 11 could be the cause of his cancer.
        ---------------------------------
        This is not the story of rescue and recovery workers at ground zero getting
        sick with respiratory illnesses from their exposure; you have read those
        stories, and you have heard those cases. This is the story of 9-11 and
        cancer. To date, 75 recovery workers on or around what is now known as "the
        Pile"—the rubble that remained after the World Trade Center towers collapsed
        on the morning of September 11, 2001—have been diagnosed with blood cell
        cancers that a half-dozen top doctors and epidemiologists have confirmed as
        having been likely caused by that exposure. Those 75 cases have come to
        light in joint-action lawsuits filed against New York City on behalf of at
        least 8,500 recovery workers who suffer from various forms of lung illnesses
        and respiratory diseases—and suggest a pattern too distinct to ignore. While
        some cancers take years, if not decades, to develop, the blood cancers in
        otherwise healthy and young individuals represent a pattern that experts
        believe
        will likely prove to be more than circumstantial. The suits seek to prove
        that these 8,500 workers—approximately 20 percent of the total estimated
        recovery force that cleared the rubble from ground zero—all suffer from the
        debilitating effects of those events. The basis for the suits stems from the
        plaintiffs' argument that the government—in a desperate attempt to revive
        downtown in the wake of the catastrophic events on 9-11—failed to protect
        workers from cancer-causing benzene, dioxin, and other hazardous chemicals
        that permeated the air for months. Officials made these failures worse by
        falsely reassuring New Yorkers that they faced no long-term dangers from
        exposure to the air lingering over ground zero. "We are very encouraged that
        the results from our monitoring of air-quality and drinking-water conditions
        in both New York and near the Pentagon show that the public in these areas
        is not being exposed to excessive levels of asbestos or other harmful
        substances,"
        Christine Todd Whitman, the then administrator of the EPA, told the citizens
        of New York City in a press release on September 18—only seven days after
        the attacks. "Given the scope of the tragedy from last week, I am glad to
        reassure the people of New York . . . that their air is safe to breathe and
        the water is safe to drink." Those statements were not only false and
        misleading, but may even play into the basis for the city's liability for
        millions of dollars in the recovery workers' lawsuits. Last February, U.S.
        District Judge Deborah Batts cited Whitman's false statements as the basis
        for allowing a different class-action lawsuit to proceed—this one, against
        the EPA and Whitman, is on behalf of residents, office workers, and students
        from Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, many of whom suffer from respiratory
        illnesses as a result of 9-11. "No reasonable person would have thought that
        telling thousands of people that it was safe to return to Lower Manhattan,
        while
        knowing that such return could pose long-term health risks and other dire
        consequences, was conduct sanctioned by our laws," Batts wrote in her
        February 2 ruling. "Whitman's deliberate and misleading statements made to
        the press, where she reassured the public that the air was safe to breathe
        around Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, and that there would be no health risk
        presented to those returning to the areas, shocks the conscience." And that
        was before anyone knew of the apparent cancer link, first reported in the
        New York news media in the spring of 2004. Even more shocking is the
        incidence of cancer and other life-threatening illnesses that have developed
        among those participating in the recovery workers' lawsuits. Given the fact
        that some cancers are slower to develop than others, it seems likely to
        several doctors and epidemiologists that many more reports of cancer and
        serious lung illnesses will surface in the months and years to come. The
        fact that 8,500 recovery
        workers have already banded together to sue, only five years later—with 400
        total cancer patients among their number—leads many experts to predict that
        these figures are likely to grow, meaning a possible death toll in the
        thousands. In many ways, these illnesses suggest the slow but deteriorating
        health issues that faced the atomic-bomb survivors of Hiroshima and
        Nagasaki, where thousands died in the years and decades that followed the
        United States' use of nuclear weapons. And that similarity has not been lost
        on David Worby, the 53-year-old attorney leading the joint-action suits on
        behalf of those workers who are already sick, and even dying. "In the end,"
        Worby declares, "our officials might be responsible for more deaths than
        Osama bin Laden on 9-11."
        ---------------------------------
        In the five years since the attacks, much of the focus on the 9-11 health
        crisis has missed a broader question, the one that every ground zero worker
        fears most and the one that Ernie Vallebuona has already had to ponder: What
        about cancer? What if all that pulverized concrete and ground glass and
        caustic mist that Vallebuona inhaled while on the Pile didn't attack his
        lungs but instead went straight for his lymph nodes? Could this noxious mix
        have caused his lymphoma? No one has done a comprehensive study of the
        health consequences on the estimated 40,000 rescue and recovery workers who
        raced to ground zero after the attacks. A study by Mount Sinai Medical
        Center—one that received widespread media attention two months ago—released
        statistics on the five-year anniversary of 9-11 that focused almost
        exclusively on respiratory problems and bypassed any mention of cancer
        today. But David Worby has tracked the cancer patients among his growing
        client base for the last
        two years. Here are the latest tallies: Of the 8,500 people now suing the
        city, 400, or about 5 percent, have cancer. The biggest group by far
        consists of people like Vallebuona, who have blood cell cancers.
        Seventy-five clients suffer from lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma, and
        other blood cell cancers; most are men, aged 30 to 60, who appeared in
        perfect health just five years ago. The field of cancer research is not
        known for consensus. But six prominent specialists on cancer and the link to
        toxins—on the faculty of the nation's top medical schools and public health
        institutions—all come to the same conclusions when told these statistics.
        They are Richard Clapp and David Ozonoff, professors of environmental health
        at Boston University School of Public Health; Michael Thun, director of
        epidemiological research at the American Cancer Society; Francine Laden,
        assistant professor of environmental epidemiology at Harvard School of
        Public Health; Jonathan Samet, chairman
        of the epidemiology department at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public
        Health; and Charles Hesdorffer, associate professor of oncology at Johns
        Hopkins School of Medicine. These doctors and epidemiologists agree that the
        incidence of cancer among this subset of workers sounds shockingly high,
        that they cannot and should not be dismissed as coincidence, and that the
        toxic dust cloud that hung over downtown Manhattan, and particularly the
        Pile, likely caused or promoted the diseases. Some even went so far as to
        say that the blood cancer cases, especially, indicate what could become a
        wave of cancer cases stemming from 9-11 over the next decades. "Those
        numbers seem quite outrageous," is how Hesdorffer puts it. Now at Johns
        Hopkins, Hesdorffer directed until last year the tumor immunotherapy program
        at Columbia University Medical Center, where he treated two recovery workers
        who got cancer post–9-11. He notes that the average healthy adult person has
        a 20 percent risk
        of having cancer over a lifetime. Calculate that risk over five years—the
        time frame from the events of 9-11 until today—and it drops to about 1
        percent. Yet 5 percent of the suits' workers—1 percent of the overall worker
        population—have already been diagnosed with malignancies. And these patients
        don't include the thousands whose illnesses have yet to be recorded because
        they aren't participating in the lawsuits or in the World Trade Center
        medical-monitoring programs. What the experts find most telling are the
        types of cancer now emerging. They say the blood cancer cases seem too
        disproportionate to be random. Two percent of these workers have been
        diagnosed with what amounts to related diseases, none of which fall into the
        "high-frequency" category, which includes prostate cancer. One out of 9,000
        people nationwide gets lymphoma a year; for myeloma, it's one out of 30,000.
        By contrast, the 75 blood cancer patients translate into several dozen new
        cases a year.
        "That's not just a fluke," says Ozonoff, who studies cancer clusters and
        toxic waste sites. Samet, a worldwide expert on smoking and cancer, notes
        that when so many cases of related cancers emerge, it can signal a forming
        cluster. "It sounds like an impressive cluster of cancer cases, and I would
        want to study it," he says. To be sure, the experts advise caution until
        more evidence is collected. They acknowledge that the data needed to draw a
        definite link between 9-11 and cancer don't exist. None of the cancers
        emerging now are the kinds that come only from toxic exposures—like, say,
        asbestosis, which is caused by asbestos and can take two decades to grow.
        This sentinel cancer would go a long way toward proving a 9-11 connection.
        Absent that, scientists would want to determine whether a higher proportion
        of cancer patients exists among the workers than in the general public. But
        because there are no independent data on the 40,000-strong group, they can't
        make this
        calculation yet. Meanwhile, the latency periods for most cancers from the
        time of a full-blown carcinogenic exposure to a full-blown malignancy can
        take years, if not decades. Says Thun, of the American Cancer Society: "It
        is the exception rather than the rule to have cancers develop this quickly."
        ---------------------------------
        Despite the lack of definitive data, we may still be in the midst of a
        cancer epidemic. Indeed, according to these experts, traditional data don't
        help much here because 9-11 represents such a singular exposure. No one can
        deny that the workers were exposed to a blend of pulverized and aerosolized
        toxins that had never existed in any occupational setting before. And this
        mix of toxins alone is enough to cause more aggressive cancers. "It's also
        enough to throw out prescriptions on timing," Hesdorffer adds. Back in May
        2004, before most doctors even contemplated a 9-11 link to cancer,
        Hesdorffer provided testimony to the federal government's September 11
        Victim Compensation Fund on behalf of one police officer who had developed
        pancreatic cancer within a year after his recovery stint. Hesdorffer finds
        it odd that two of his patients had been diagnosed with the rare cancer
        after working on the Pile. "It's strange to have two people who were
        subjected to the same
        exposure," he says, "developing the same cancer in the same time frame." Now
        that he has learned of Worby's statistics, he is convinced that "there is
        definitely more than a likely link between the 9-11 exposures and cancer."
        Francine Laden, who specializes in air pollution and cancer, agrees. Because
        so many of Worby's clients have blood cancers—which have faster incubation
        periods than tumor cancers, forming in as little as five years—Laden
        confirms that it's not a stretch to attribute their diseases to the dust
        cloud. "Blood cancers are different," she says, noting the tie between
        benzene and leukemia, as well as dioxin and lymphoma. "It's not beyond the
        realm of feasibility that these chemicals caused these cancers." Ozonoff
        puts it more firmly: "For an acute episode like this, it's definitely
        possible these blood cancers were caused by 9-11." Ozonoff echoes all five
        of his colleagues when he draws parallels between the aftermath of 9-11 and
        that of another
        massive exposure: the atomic-bombs dropped on Japan. Bomb survivors
        experienced excessive spikes in leukemia rates within the first five years,
        a surprising discovery for epidemiologists in the mid 20th century. While
        this outbreak resulted from radiation, both it and 9-11 involved a sudden
        and intense blast of carcinogens. For bomb survivors, leukemia appeared
        first, followed by breast and lung cancer. "That could happen with 9-11,"
        says Samet, the Johns Hopkins epidemiology department chair. "It might be
        what we're seeing today." It's also possible that the carcinogens in the
        Trade Center dust accelerated cancers already dormant or developing in the
        recovery workers, epidemiologists say. According to Richard Clapp, who
        directed the Massachusetts Cancer Registry from 1980 to 1989, toxins can not
        only instigate the genes that cause cancerous cells to divide, but also
        hasten their dividing. That means that a person with an undetected cancer
        will develop it faster and in a
        more virulent manner. He calls this the "promotional effect" and says some
        toxins associated with 9-11 have been known to speed up lymphomas and
        leukemias. "The promotional effect could have happened already," he says.
        Either way, Clapp adds, "It's hard not to attribute these cancers to 9-11."
        His gut, he says, is telling him one thing: "We'll be seeing a cancer
        explosion from 9-11, and we're starting to see it today."
        A nurse would ask John Walcott about possible causes of his acute
        myelogenous leukemia. Like Vallebuona, Walcott answered no to all the
        questions. And like Vallebuona, he didn't connect the dots between his time
        at ground zero and the cancer growing in his body.
        photo: Scott McDermott
        ---------------------------------
        At 8:30 on the morning of the terrorist attacks, Ernie Vallebuona was
        driving with his three-year-old son, also named Ernie, to a nearby Home
        Depot in search of the perfect paint color for the family bathroom.
        Vallebuona always listens to 1010 WINS in the car, so he turned on the
        radio. He soon heard the incredible news that a plane had crashed into one
        of the twin towers. Instantly, he got the call to respond. "We're all
        mobilizing," his NYPD supervisor told him via cell phone. "Get to work as
        fast as you can." Over in Pomona, some 36 miles away from Manhattan,
        37-year-old NYPD detective John Walcott was at his suburban home, killing
        time before a midnight tour on the narcotics unit, where he'd worked for a
        dozen years. He was relaxing on the couch when a friend from St. Louis
        called. "What the hell is going on in New York?" the friend asked,
        incredulously. Walcott had no idea what his friend meant. He flipped on the
        TV, only to see flames raging from the twin
        towers. Minutes later, he was behind the wheel of his minivan, speeding down
        the highway toward the World Trade Center. Some 200 miles southeast of the
        Trade Center site, 49-year-old Gary Acker was working in a bomb shelter
        dubbed the "earth station," an undisclosed location where AT&T keeps its
        large satellite dishes. At the time, Acker was managing the company's
        disaster recovery team, which restores critical communications after
        catastrophes. He had long viewed the post as the crowning achievement in his
        31-year career, one that suited his desire to make a difference. When the
        first plane hit the north tower, he was sitting in an equipment room, four
        floors below ground, running emergency drills. No one had turned on the TV,
        so he remained oblivious to the events unfolding in Manhattan. His wife,
        Alison, called him. "Look at the TV," she said, just as the second plane hit
        the south tower. Acker knew that New York City officials would be calling
        AT&T for help.
        "Pack up your equipment," he heard his wife say, "and get ready to ride."
        Back in Manhattan, Jessy McCarthy was not about to roll anywhere. The
        Verizon field technician was sitting in his office on East 91st Street,
        listening to the news on the radio, when he heard about the planes hitting
        the towers. He froze in place, unable to pull himself away from the
        broadcast for hours that day. Only that afternoon did he manage to go to a
        nearby work site to repair phone lines. Sitting in his truck, he stared in
        disbelief at all the people doused in gray dust walking up Third Avenue from
        downtown. His eyes locked on the caravan of people who'd been caught in that
        cloud. By the time McCarthy was taking in this ghostly scene, Vallebuona and
        Walcott had joined thousands of first responders at the World Trade Center.
        Both arrived at the site shortly after the 110-story twin towers came
        crashing down, and they spent the next 15 hours sifting through the
        wreckage. Racing to the scene
        from the Seventh Precinct, on Pitt Street, Vallebuona encountered a giant
        cloud of dust and smoke so hazy and dense, he couldn't see his hand in front
        of his face. He circled the periphery of what he thought was the scene,
        following the blaring sirens and running past pumper trucks and police
        cruisers twisted up like discarded tin cans. The dust caked his eyes and
        coated his lips. It filled his nostrils with a horrible smell, like burned
        plastic and flesh. Vallebuona happened to have a bandanna in his pants
        pocket, which he wrapped across his face. It did little to ward off the
        rancid odor. Walcott was also experiencing the noxious effects of the
        chemical brew. While the massive cloud had dissipated, the crystalline
        particles hung in the air like speckles in a snow globe. He waded though
        mounds of pulverized dust, knee-deep, tasting it on his lips, spitting it
        out of his mouth. Without a mask, he was coughing immediately. First came
        the black mucus and ashen chunks, then
        the dry heaves and blood. For hours, he wiped away dark gunk dripping from
        his eyes. He couldn't help but think that something was wrong. But he
        focused on the mission at hand, on the faint hope of discovering survivors.
        That day, he stepped over the only human body that he would find intact—a
        female, burned beyond recognition, a charred bra over her face. Acker
        arrived on the scene 24 hours later, after driving with 11 team members up
        the East Coast in a company trailer equipped with satellite transmission
        consoles and multiplex cables. He would spend the next 33 days in and around
        ground zero—first setting up a satellite at 1 Police Plaza, then manning
        phone lines across the street from what came to be known as the Pile. The
        plume enveloped the area from the moment he set foot there until he left.
        Many nights, he'd oversee the satellite atop 1 Police Plaza, just east of
        ground zero, and watch as the prevailing winds subsided and the bright-blue
        smoke settled in. It
        hung so heavily on the city that he couldn't see the guards stationed across
        the street. In these early days, Acker, Vallebuona, and Walcott all
        struggled to protect themselves from the toxic dust. The foul odor clogged
        the air for the three months that Vallebuona ended up working at the
        site—first on the Pile, hauling rubble with buckets, then around the
        perimeter, providing security and escorting residents to their dust-laden
        homes. When he and Walcott searched the rubble as part of the initial bucket
        brigade, they wore nothing over their faces but surgical masks. Respirator
        masks came weeks into their months-long recovery work; sometimes they came
        with the wrong filters. Because Walcott was a detective, he ended up
        spending his five-month stint not just at ground zero, but also at Fresh
        Kills. As much as he choked on the Lower Manhattan air, he dreaded the
        Staten Island landfill. Walcott knew everything in the towers had
        fallen—desks, lights, computers. But apart
        from the occasional steel beam, the detritus that he sifted through there
        consisted of tiny grains of dust—no furniture pieces, no light fixtures, not
        even a computer mouse. At times, the detectives would take shelter in wooden
        sheds, in an attempt to get away from what Walcott likes to call "all that
        freaking bad air." One day, he was sitting in the shed with his colleagues,
        eating candy bars and drinking sodas, when some FBI agents entered. They
        were dressed in full haz-mat suits, complete with head masks, which they had
        sealed shut with duct tape to ward off the fumes. As Walcott took in the
        scene, contrasting the well-protected FBI agents with the New York cops
        wearing respirator masks, one thought entered his mind: What is wrong with
        this picture? The same thought would cross Acker's mind only fleetingly, and
        only after weeks of working near ground zero, while he was hacking so hard
        he vomited something akin to chewed-up licorice. During his first days at
        the
        site, he wore the painter's mask that an NYPD lieutenant had given him, but
        it soon became too filthy from debris. By October, he was spitting up so
        much gunk that he called his doctor for an antibiotics prescription. But he
        wouldn't leave the site; when the fumes got bad, he'd sit in the company
        trailer and flip on the air conditioner. That had a filter, at least. AT&T
        had stocked its disaster trailers with almost everything—rubber boots, hard
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        Acker thought, staring at the shelves. All this stuff, yet no one had ever
        considered respirators. Around this time, McCarthy was just beginning to
        report for recovery duty. When Verizon asked for volunteers to restore phone
        lines
        near ground zero, he didn't hesitate. He arrived for his first assignment in
        early October and wound up staying downtown for the next 13 months, going
        from basement to basement, moving from Wall Street skyscrapers to Chinatown
        walk-ups. The first thing he saw in the company terminals was the Trade
        Center dust, piled on top of consoles, crammed into corners. He had to wipe
        down the equipment with his bare hands to see the wires. The dust had an
        orange hue; at times, it twinkled. And it always stunk, an unforgettable
        smell he struggled to get past every time. Invariably, he'd find it in his
        hair, on his eyelashes, in his tool belt, even under his fingernails.
        Sometimes, he'd gaze at the ceiling and get the sense of standing in the
        middle of a meadow thick with pollen. He could see the soot and dust
        floating in the air.
        ---------------------------------
        When it occurred to these responders that they might be sacrificing their
        health for the sake of the cleanup—as it did to anyone who came in contact
        with the foul-smelling smoke and dust—they took comfort in the official word
        at the time. In the immediate aftermath of 9-11, the EPA issued multiple
        statements on the air quality downtown. All were reassuring in nature. On
        September 18, the day after the New York Stock Exchange reopened for
        business, the EPA's Whitman said the air was safe to breathe. It has turned
        out those words were, in fact, false. In August 2003, the EPA inspector
        general issued a scathing 155-page report concluding that the agency hadn't
        had the data to make such blanket declarations at that time. By then, more
        than a quarter of EPA samples showed unsafe levels of asbestos, and the
        agency had yet to complete tests for mercury, cadmium, lead, dioxin, and
        PCBs. The inspector general's report went on to disclose another
        disconcerting fact—that the
        White House had pressured the EPA to sanitize its warnings about ground
        zero. The inspector general revealed that the White House Council on
        Environmental Quality had taken a red pen to the agency's press releases,
        adding reassuring statements and deleting cautionary ones, creating the
        overly rosy picture that the air was clean. In reality, the 9-11 fallout was
        like nothing anyone had been exposed to before. Everything in the towers had
        been ground into dust—concrete, steel, glass, insulation, plastic, and
        computers. Dust analyses would detect glass shards, cement particles,
        cellulose fibers, asbestos, and a mixture of harmful components, including
        lead, titanium, barium, and gypsum. In all, the dust contained more than 100
        different compounds, some of which have never been identified. And then
        there were the fires that smoldered for three months. They gave off not only
        the putrid plume, but also a blast of carcinogens—asbestos, dioxin, and
        polycyclic aromatic
        hydrocarbons, or PAHs. They also emitted benzene. In one disturbing analysis
        done by the U.S. Geological Survey, the dust had such high alkalinity levels
        it rivaled liquid Drano. Thomas Cahill, a physicist who sent a team to
        analyze the plume from a rooftop a mile away from ground zero, says he got
        worried once he noticed the color of the smoke had turned a fluorescent
        blue. That's a sure sign that ultra-fine particles (which can go deep into
        the lungs and enter the bloodstream) were coming off the Pile and permeating
        the air. When his team tested the plume, the scientists found higher levels
        of sulfuric acid, heavy metals, and other insoluble materials than anywhere
        else in the world, even in the Kuwaiti oil fields. "Not nice stuff," says
        Cahill, a professor emeritus of physics at the University of California at
        Davis, who has published three papers on the 9-11 plume, "and it was all
        being liberated by that smoldering pile, so those people got the full force
        of it."
        Today, Cahill is trying to identify what exactly the recovery workers were
        inhaling, but the data are incomplete. He does know one thing for certain:
        "You'd have to stand by a busy highway for eight years to get what these
        people on the site got in just four weeks." He then adds, "These poor people
        are part of an enormous experiment, I think."
        ---------------------------------
        In May 2003, John Walcott was 39 years old. He had just become a first-time
        father—of his daughter, Colleen—and had proudly coached a Bedford high
        school hockey team to the state regionals. That spring, he had noticed his
        energy fade. But he figured his 16-hour days juggling the narcotics beat,
        hockey practice, and parenthood were finally catching up to him. Still, the
        fatigue would consume him for weeks. He'd fall asleep at his desk or behind
        the wheel. Often he'd nod off in the middle of a conversation. Then he got
        the diagnosis: acute myelogenous leukemia, a white-blood-cell cancer. He was
        ordered straight to the hospital, where he underwent chemotherapy for the
        next 28 days. Eventually, a nurse would ask Walcott questions similar to
        those put to Valle-buona, the ones meant to pinpoint the possible causes for
        his cancer. Like Vallebuona, Walcott answered no to all the questions. And
        like Vallebuona, he didn't connect the dots between his time at ground zero
        and
        the cancer growing in his body. Visiting him in the hospital later, his
        sister, Debbie, did. "John," she said, "what the hell do you think you were
        around at ground zero?" It was a question that Gary Acker would also have to
        confront that summer, in a visit to his own doctor's office. The AT&T
        manager had never shaken that World Trade Center cough, struggling with sore
        throats and lung infections for 18 months after completing his recovery
        work, suffering through all kinds of inhalers and antibiotic regimens. At
        one point, his doctor diagnosed him with sleep apnea and ordered him to wear
        a pilot-like mask strapped over his face at night, so as to reduce his
        roaring snores. It didn't work. A perennial optimist, Acker ignored any hint
        that his health problems were 9-11 related. In September 2002, he got the
        first warning that his health was deteriorating from exposure to the dust
        cloud when he underwent a pulmonary test for the company. He was stunned by
        the doctor's
        response. "How many packs of cigarettes do you smoke a day?" the doctor
        asked Acker. "I don't smoke. I never have in my life." "Well, you have a
        real breathing problem," the doctor informed him. His second warning came in
        the summer of 2003, as Walcott was getting chemotherapy. In August, Acker
        was landscaping the backyard at his home, in Columbus, New Jersey, carrying
        two 50-pound buckets of stones, when his body buckled under a jolt of pain.
        It felt as if somebody had jabbed a fishhook into his rib cage and was
        slowly gutting him. He allowed for the possibility of a kidney stone and
        paid a trip to the doctor. Days later, he got a diagnosis that would stop
        his heart cold: multiple myeloma, a plasma cell cancer. Already, the super-
        advanced cancer had eaten its way through the bone marrow in his ribs, as
        well as many other bones in his body. For a fleeting moment, Acker thought
        about that thick and foul plume hanging over the Pile; could it have caused
        his
        cancer? But his optimism flooded back and he focused on his treatment
        instead—on the chemotherapy pills that he would take twice a day for the
        next 28 days. Only days later, after his oncologist confirmed that his
        myeloma likely formed in the last two years, did he finally make the tie-in
        to 9-11. By the spring of 2004, Acker and Walcott had endured not only
        months of chemotherapy, but also stem cell transplants. They experienced a
        series of life-threatening infections and trips in and out of the hospital
        before beating their cancers into remission.
        For a fleeting moment, Gary Acker thought about that thick and foul plume
        hanging over the Pile; could it have caused his multiple myeloma?
        photo: Scott McDermott Meanwhile, Vallebuona had just begun noticing
        gout-like symptoms. They started in his big toes, which doubled in size and
        became hot to the touch, and then moved to his knees, joints, and chest. For
        six months, he went back and forth to the doctor, getting more medicine,
        seeking more remedies. He wouldn't doubt that diagnosis until October 2004,
        when the searing stomachache tipped him off to what had really been causing
        pain in his abdomen. When he got the cancer diagnosis, Valle-buona was
        relieved about one thing. His doctor had been wrong about the gout. If
        nothing else, at least he wouldn't have to live with that excruciating pain
        for the rest of his life. As Vallebuona was coming to grips with his cancer
        in the fall of 2004, Jessy McCarthy was still feeling healthy. The Verizon
        technician had managed to evade the kinds of respiratory problems that have
        afflicted so many ground zero workers—the cough, the sinusitis, the
        asthma—in the two years
        since his recovery assignment had ended. He would experience nothing to
        suggest the grave disease that would sneak up on him. At least not until one
        day in October 2004, while taking a shower, when he saw a swelling around
        the glands under his arm, about the size of a marble. He thought: This is
        not right.
        In March 2005, after a biopsy of one of his lymph nodes, Jessy McCarthy
        finally was given the definitive diagnosis of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. By
        then, the recovery workers' lawsuits had been more than a year in the
        making.
        photo: Scott McDermott But McCarthy didn't feel sick; there were no dizzy
        spells or nausea. A trip to the family doctor to ask about the lump yielded
        little information, just something questionable about his blood. So McCarthy
        plodded on with his life, holding down his full-time job, taking care of his
        teenage son. Suddenly, within weeks, he noticed the lump had grown, and more
        had developed. His lymph nodes swelled all over his body, underneath his
        arms, in his groin, around his neck and chest. The lumps just seemed to
        sprout; they grew so big that they looked like mini-baseballs. Suddenly,
        McCarthy found himself undergoing a battery of medical exams—CAT scans, PET
        scans, blood tests, and anything else that would help narrow down the
        possibilities. It took six months to rule out every type of lymphatic
        infection. In March 2005, after a biopsy of one of his lymph nodes, McCarthy
        finally was given the definitive diagnosis of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. By
        then, the recovery
        workers' lawsuits had been more than a year in the making. Back in the
        winter of 2004, Walcott had just survived the worst of his hospital stays, a
        17-day stretch of 106-degree fevers, and was confined to his home. Months
        had passed since he learned that his leukemia likely resulted from his
        exposure to benzene while on the Pile, but he went in search of legal
        advice. He started with a lawyer friend, who encouraged him to keep looking.
        One attorney offered to take Walcott's case, as long as he put up his modest
        house to cover the fees. "Forget it," he said. Eventually, parents of the
        kids on his high school hockey team heard about his plight. During a visit,
        Walcott told some parents about his fruitless search. They had an idea. They
        could contact a trial lawyer whose son went to the same high school; his
        name was David Worby.
        ---------------------------------
        "I took the case as a favor," the lead attorney in the recovery workers'
        lawsuits says, sitting in his spacious penthouse office in White Plains. A
        trim man whose brown hair is graying at the temples, David Worby exudes
        confidence as he reclines in his chair and recalls the early days of what
        has become his greatest legal crusade. Long before the 9-11 suits, he had
        built a reputation as a gladiator lawyer on personal-injury cases; in 1989,
        he set a Westchester record by winning $18 million for a construction worker
        run down by a car. Fifteen years later, he was settling into early
        retirement when one of the Bedford parents told him about the ailing
        Walcott. "What was I supposed to do?" Worby asks. What started out as a case
        for one sick recovery worker quickly snowballed. Today, a team of 20
        attorneys at his firm of Worby Groner Edelman Napoli & Bern is handling the
        suits, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, for the thousands of
        workers associated with the
        Trade Center cleanup—police officers, firefighters, sanitation workers, iron
        workers, and Latino day workers. Last month, Federal District Judge Alvin
        Hellerstein rejected the city's claim for immunity in the Worby lawsuits and
        recently capped its liability at $1 billion. The judge is expected to
        appoint a special master to settle the workers' claims. Worby's client list
        continues to grow. It now includes Vallebuona, Acker, and McCarthy, all of
        whom came to him after he filed the first suits in September 2004. They
        found out about him as most of his clients do—by word of mouth, one sick
        recovery worker to another, one worried spouse to another. Others have
        called him after hearing about the cases on TV or the radio or in the
        papers. Most of the clients have grown ill from respiratory problems like
        asthma, sinusitis, and bronchitis. But some have kidney failure, and 400
        people have developed cancer. So far, 83 clients have died. The number of
        cancer patients has
        multiplied at a rate that Worby says he never anticipated. Back in 2004, he
        represented only 20 workers who had cancer. But by last March, he had
        watched that number soar to 200, and within six months after that, it had
        doubled. Now he gets at least several calls a week from clients who have
        just been diagnosed with some cancer. Or from new clients who have had the
        cancer for weeks or months. Like many trial lawyers, Worby has a penchant
        for talking in fervent, breathless tones, as though his words were writ
        large, in bright, blinking letters. Convinced that the 9-11 fallout has made
        for a cancer explosion, he doesn't hesitate to say so. "There is going to be
        a cancer catastrophe the likes of which we've never seen in this country,"
        he says. "The numbers are going to be staggering." Perhaps it'd be easy to
        dismiss him as another hot-aired plaintiffs' attorney were it not for his
        own command of numbers. He has become something of a gumshoe epidemiologist,
        compiling the
        data on his cancer patients that are lacking in the larger worker
        population, tracking their diseases, ages, diagnosis dates, and their 9-11
        exposures. "Look at the cancers my clients have," he says, flipping through
        a dozen pages of a document entitled "Seriously Ill Clients." It's updated
        every month; this one is dated September 13, 2006. The document outlines
        what he calls his "cancer clusters" and lists rare cancers often associated
        with the 9-11 toxins, such as thyroid (30 people), tongue and throat (25),
        testicular (16), and brain (10). He keeps a separate document on the 75
        people with blood cancers. Two dozen of them have various forms of leukemia;
        the remaining four dozen have various forms of lymphoma, multiple myeloma,
        and other blood cell cancers. "If I had two blood cancers, it'd be a strong
        coincidence," Worby argues. "But 70? That defies coincidence. The word
        coincidence should not be in anyone's vocabulary." Worby contends that it
        wasn't just the
        unprecedented amount of toxins in the air that caused his clients to develop
        cancer; it was that the toxins worked together. Worby calls it a
        "synergistic effect," and cancer specialists say there is such a thing as
        toxic synergy, which occurs when chemicals combine. They can enhance the
        damage that the other ones would cause. Think of it this way: The benzene at
        ground zero may have caused Walcott's acute leukemia; the dioxin probably
        sped up its development. "This amount of toxicological exposure is going to
        speed up normal latency periods," Worby argues. He makes this assertion with
        the same zeal that he exhibits in the courtroom, citing medical studies on
        animals, rattling off the findings as if they were second nature. Why would
        the doctors monitoring the effects of 9-11 on people's health not understand
        this connection, he wonders. "Why would people not make this link?"
        ---------------------------------
        Five years after September 11, there's no doubt that the toxic dust cloud
        has devastated the lungs of those who participated in the Trade Center
        cleanup. In September, the Mount Sinai Medical Center released data from its
        WTC Worker and Volunteer Medical Screening Program, which has tested 17,500
        recovery workers to date. In that analysis, doctors found that nearly 70
        percent of the 9,500 subjects they surveyed experienced new or worsened
        respiratory symptoms at ground zero; close to 60 percent saw those symptoms
        persist for years. Doctors have seen chronic sinusitis, laryngitis, asthma,
        gastroesophageal reflux disorder, and disabling musculoskeletal conditions.
        Even the famous World Trade Center cough has lasted much longer than
        anticipated. "All of us have been badly surprised by the persistence and the
        chronicity of the World Trade Center diseases," says Robin Herbert, the
        director of the screening program. But at the Mount Sinai program (and at
        the WTC program
        of the FDNY, which declined to comment for this article), the link between
        the dust cloud and cancer is discussed more as a possibility than a reality.
        It's not that doctors aren't extremely concerned about the connection,
        Herbert says, given the cancer-causing agents and other toxins in the mix.
        While individual cancer cases may be attributed to 9-11 toxins, she says,
        the doctors, so far, lack full epidemiological proof linking the two. "We
        don't know if we're seeing a spike in cancer rates," Herbert says, as they
        have in the rates of respiratory illnesses. Herbert confirms that the Mount
        Sinai doctors have seen some workers with cancer, including unusual cancers,
        but says they'd expect some workers to develop malignancies over the last
        five years anyway. Is there more incidence of cancer among Pile workers than
        among those who didn't toil on the Pile? "That's the key question," she
        says. The Mount Sinai epidemiologists have just begun to try to answer that
        by launching
        an initiative to update medical records, document new diagnoses, and track
        less-com mon diseases like cancer. It's a slow process, with no timeline.
        Still, she says, "We are now aggressively investigating every case of cancer
        that has been reported to us." But the WTC programs—funded by the federal
        government—have their share of critics, who wonder how interested the
        doctors are in the 9-11 and cancer issue. Al O'Leary, the spokesperson for
        the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, says that many of its members feel
        as if the doctors are ignoring the signs of a growing cancer cluster. "It
        was our impression that no one in the medical-monitoring programs believed
        the cancers could be happening this early," he explains. Over the past year,
        the police union has fielded a steady increase in calls from members who
        have developed cancer since working at ground zero. Last July, the PBA
        started its own World Trade Center health registry for its members, listing
        seven cancer
        cases at the time. Today, there are 20 cases; they include the 35-year-old
        who worked on the Pile and at Fresh Kills and now has multiple myeloma, the
        45-year-old who surveyed the Trade Center site for two years and now has
        leukemia, and the 41-year-old who manned the landfill morgue for three weeks
        and now has myeloma. "Now, don't you think this is all very suspicious?"
        O'Leary asks. "The medical community needs to be more open-minded about what
        diseases can be caused by 9-11." Some cancer specialists agree. Hesdorffer,
        of Johns Hopkins, still remembers the reaction to his testimony before the
        Victim Compensation Fund, back in 2004. He was called back about a
        half-dozen times to explain why he would attribute the pancreatic cancer in
        his two patients to the dust cloud so soon after 9-11. It was as if no one
        wanted to make the connection; one patient lost his claim despite the
        doctor's opinion. "We're in this period where no one wants to accept the
        link," Hesdorffer
        observes. Maybe the official denial stems from economics, from a desire to
        limit the amount of money owed to the thousands who have lost their health.
        Or maybe it has to do with politics. Admitting a link, as he points out,
        "would mean that the fallout from 9-11 was a lot bigger than we'd thought."
        What it would mean is that people got cancer from government decisions. From
        the decision of Whitman to lie about the air quality in Lower Manhattan,
        which gave the recovery workers and many other New Yorkers a false sense of
        security. From the decision of the White House to put Wall Street ahead of
        public health, which the EPA inspector general found had influenced all
        those rosy statements. And from the decision to let workers toil without
        proper respirators for weeks, or without any respirators at all.
        ---------------------------------
        For Gary Acker, now 54 and still undergoing monthly chemical drips to heal
        his bones, gone are the annual trips hunting for caribou in Canada and
        fishing for trout in the Adirondacks. Those years in the late '90s when he
        threw the javelin and shot put in the New York version of the Olympics seem
        like an adolescent memory. No longer working at AT&T, he devotes his time to
        trying to relax, watching mindless sitcoms on TV, anything to make himself
        laugh. "If I'm laughing, I'm not stressed," he says. His doctors tell him
        that no stress means less chance of a cancer relapse. Last year, Jessy
        McCarthy, now 48, had to work through his chemotherapy treatment, juggling
        the 72-hour drips with his job and his son for six months. He didn't have
        much choice; otherwise he'd lose his medical benefits. He could never afford
        the medical bills on his $65,000 salary; some of his medications cost $5,000
        a dose. Now in remission, he continues to fix phone lines, though he knows
        the day
        will come when he can't anymore. Already, he has had to call for help on
        assignments he used to do alone. He also knows, in the back of his mind,
        that his cancer is the kind that will likely return, and possibly kill him.
        Walcott and Vallebuona, both retired from the force because of their cancer,
        continue to live with the side effects of their treatments—the lost feeling
        in their hands and feet and the extreme fatigue. While Vallebuona has
        undergone chemotherapy, radiation, and a stem cell transplant, he still
        hasn't been able to beat his lymphoma into remission. They also grapple with
        what they both like to call "chemo brain." The drugs left Walcott, now 42,
        too incoherent to witness or recall the first time his daughter learned to
        walk or talk. For Vallebuona, now 41, the littler things seem to escape him,
        like the weekend plans his wife mentioned earlier in the day. But even their
        foggy minds have not erased the memories of two planes hitting the World
        Trade Center
        on that sunny September morning, when they had woken up healthy and happy to
        be alive.


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