The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine recently published a study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) finding that WTC survivors are at a greater risk for neuropathy symptoms than are Type 1 diabetics. This study reinforces the recent findings of related experiments by doctors at Long Island’s prestigious Winthrop University Hospital that Ground Zero exposure caused neuropathy symptoms in patients who had been 9/11 responders. Neuropathy is a disease or dysfunction of the nerves that can cause numbness, weakness or pain. Neuropathy is not currently listed among the conditions that make a WTC survivor eligible for health coverage and benefits under the Zadroga Act, but doctors and patients hope recent studies will convince officials to make a change.
The Winthrop study consisted of experiments exposing rat sciatic nerves to WTC dust. The NIOSH study built on that information with a survey of 9/11 survivors and responders to see if they were at greater risk for neuropathy than the general population. Noteworthy findings included that:
- Neuropathic symptoms were more severe in people with a greater exposure to Ground Zero.
- Neuropathic symptoms may occur at a higher rate in the WTC-exposed people than in patients with diabetes.
- A strong correlation between lung disease and neuropathy scores suggests the exposure pathways may be the same, but alternate pathways such as dermal absorption may also be operative.
The researchers concluded that “this study suggests that WTC dust exposure does result in an increased risk of neuropathy in responders and survivors of the WTC.” The researchers also noted that “our findings have strong policy implications and suggest that neuropathy should be added to the list of conditions covered” under the Zadroga Act.
The Zadroga Act allows diseases to be added to the list of eligible conditions when evidence suggests a causal connection. Cancer was not originally an eligible condition; now 68 cancers qualify patients for Zadroga Act health coverage. When the Act was reauthorized in 2015, benefits were extended for 75 years, until 2090. But there’s no sense in extending benefits if suffering patients can’t get the access they deserve.
At Barasch & McGarry, we advocate strongly for the rights of 9/11 responders, and we’ll continue to push for coverage for all relevant conditions. If you have questions about your rights regarding any 9/11-related illness, call us at [ln::phone] or contact our office online.