From the July 2008 Idaho Observer:

9/11: The gift that keeps on giving

NEW YORK CITY—Last March a federal appeals court refused to give New York City immunity from the lawsuits of thousands of city workers and construction laborers who claim to suffer from illnesses that have developed after helping to clean up ground zero in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health published a study on July 17, 2007, indicating that the estimates for monthly costs of treating Ground Zero workers had increased from around $6 million per month to $20 million per month by the end of 2007. The causes of the increased expense lie in the increasing numbers of workers getting sick and the worsening illnesses of workers. This indicated that the planned U.S. House appropriation legislation of $50 million for the sick workers, for the coming year, would be inadequate. The number of workers that had registered with area hospitals’ Ground Zero programs reached 37,000 last year. With about 500 new workers registering each month, the institute estimated that the number of registrants could reach 65,000 by July, 2009.

The lawsuits claim that the city failed to ensure that ground zero was a safe work place. High among the claims is the assertion that the city failed to enforce rules requiring workers to wear respirators while working amid the toxins and rubble.

Citing the unprecedented nature of the disaster, New York City and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, both defendants in the suits, have argued that they are entitled to immunity from the claims. The defendants say they cannot be required to pay out to the workers what could amount to billions of dollars in damages.

The first significant ruling in the case came in 2006, when a federal district judge in Manhattan, Alvin Hellerstein, found that the city was only entitled to immunity for its conduct in the days immediately after the terrorist attacks. The lawsuits could go forward against the city’s wishes, Judge Hellerstein ruled, to give workers the chance to prove their claims that ground zero remained an unsafe work environment even weeks and months after September 11, 2001.

The lead researcher of a New York State Department of Health study informed The New York Post of a study documenting at least 204 deaths of rescue and recovery workers since September 11, 2001. The researchers for the study confirmed 98 deaths with death certificates. The researchers showed that 77 persons died of illnesses, including 55 from lung and various other cancers. Kitty Gelberg, New York State Bureau of Occupational Health’s chief epidemiologist said, "We’re not saying they are all World Trade Center related; we’re just saying this is what people are dying from."

Many of the 55 responders who passed away from cancer had cancer before September 11, 2001, but most of the cancer patients developed the disease afterward.

The 98 deaths include:

55 cancers

21 traumatic injuries

12 heart disease;

12 sarcoidosis

1 polyneuropathy

1 pneumonia

1 granuloma pneumonitis

1 alcoholism

1 amyloidosis

1 kidney disease