New York City Firefighter Falls to Cancer Linked to Ground Zero Toxic Dust

A New York City firefighter who labored at Ground Zero for months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks has succumbed to a rare blood cancer believed to have resulted from his exposure to <"">toxic World Trade Center dust. According to CNN, Randy Wiebicke died from multiple myeloma on Wednesday, three years into his battle with the aggressive disease. He left behind his wife, a son and two daughters.

Soon after working in rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero, Wiebicke developed respiratory problems that came to be known as the “world trade center cough,” according to CNN. He retired from the fire department in 2002. In 2008, he developed kidney failure, a symptom of the multiple myeloma he would be diagnosed with that year.

According to CNN, hundreds of firefighters and other Ground Zero rescue and recover workers have died of cancer since the 9/11 attacks, though doctors are reluctant to directly tie the ailments to dust at the site. However, a 2009 study conducted by the World Trade Center Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program at Mount Sinai Hospital did suggest a link between the type of cancer Wiebicke had and exposure to the toxic dust at ground zero.

The 2009 study found eight cases of multiple myeloma among the entire population of 28,000 Ground Zero workers and volunteers. This was alarming for several reasons. For one thing, only 6.8 cases would have been expected in a group of that size. What’s more, four of those eight cases were men younger than 45 at the time the disease was diagnosed, though the cancer usually strikes elderly people. Finally, three of the four were law enforcement officers who had arrived at Ground Zero on the day the towers collapsed, meaning they had been engulfed in the thickest plumes of dust produced by the collapse.

Though it may take years before a definite link between multiple myeloma and Ground Zero toxic dust is found, the former director of the Mount Sinai program told CNN that she believes that “we are going to find that myeloma is in some fashion involved with the World Trade Center.”

The sacrifice of Randy Wiebicke and thousands of other heroes like him made the recent fight for the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act so important. The Zadroga Act, which finally passed Congress late last year, designates $4.3 billion to provide health care, monitoring and compensation to responders and volunteers sickened by toxic dust at Ground Zero in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Among other things, the Zadroga Act caps lawyers’ fees at 10 percent. Eligible Ground Zero responders should be able to begin filing Zadroga Act claims this summer.

Recently, the Feal Good Foundation, which lobbied heavily for the legislation, announced that it will conduct “The James Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Law Victim’s Compensation Fund Legal Forum” on March 20. Parker Waichman Alonso LLP, a national law firm dedicated to victims’ rights, is one of six law firms the Feal Good Foundation has invited to participate in the Zadroga Act Forum. At the forum, Zadroga Act claimants will have the opportunity to meet the Attorneys personally, to ask all of them questions and listen to others’ queries. The information presented at the Forum will help Ground Zero responders eligible to file Zadroga Act claims make decisions about their legal representation.

“The James Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Law Victim’s Compensation Fund Legal Forum” will take place on Sunday, March 20 from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. at Queens College Campus in Flushing, New York. Registration begins at 9:00 a.m. The Forum is being supported by CitiBank.

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