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Los Angeles Times


Need WTC Delayed Death Bill

Apr. 21, 2006—A New Jersey Medical Examiner's finding that a Detective who was involved in the recovery efforts at the World Trade Center site died because of the toxins he was exposed to has intensified the push of uniformed union leaders for a bill granting line-of-duty death benefits in such cases.

It should be increasingly clear that such treatment is warranted.

The autopsy by Dr. Gerard Breton of the Ocean County M.E.'s Office found "the presence of innumerable foreign body granulomas that are distributed throughout the lung tissue" of Det. James Zadroga. Fiberglass was among the substances discovered in his lungs.

There was no other explanation for finding those materials in the lungs of a 34-year-old man than his work sifting through the rubble at the Trade Center site looking for survivors, bodies, and evidence.

The ruling is the first conclusive finding that an emergency worker was killed as a direct cause of time spent at Ground Zero. There have been several other deaths, however - involving firefighters and Emergency Medical Service workers - where exposure to the deadly toxins at the site was almost certainly the cause.

Governor Pataki last year signed into law a bill that grants job-related disability pensions to those public employees who were unable to continue working because of illnesses they contracted - often years after exposure - from work related to the rescue and recovery efforts at the Trade Center and other sites where bodies or rubble were transported.

As the death toll begins to rise, the Legislature and the Governor must look to do something more for those whose work there winds up costing them their lives. Detective Zadroga's survivors, including his 4-year-old daughter, Tylerann, are entitled to eight years of disability pension payments, which are paid at three-quarters of his final salary. If his case was classified as a line-of-duty death by the NYPD, the family would be entitled to the equivalent of his final year's pay until Tylerann was 19, and until 23 if she were a full-time student for that long.

This could get expensive for the city, since it is clear that some of these cases take years to manifest themselves. But it and the state - in other words, we, the public - owe that much to those who put themselves in harm's way, sometimes not realizing the extent of the danger because of pronouncements by both Federal and city officials that the air in the vicinity was of acceptable quality.

Those who pay with their lives should have their families properly compensated to honor their sacrifice.