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Taking Its Toll: Death of a Volunteer

Photographer Adan Gonzalez arrived at the WTC site as a volunteer. He worked to document the effort and support other volunteers and responders on-site. In May of this year, Mr. Gonzalez died of throat cancer he believed was caused by on-site exposure to toxins.

Although the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) approved the addition of several types of cancer last September to compensable illnesses under the Zadroga Act, funds that might have helped Mr. Gonzalez during his illness never arrived.

It is all too common news — someone dies from a cancer seemingly related to the World Trade Center (WTC) tragedy. From 2001 until present, the death toll stretches on. In April of 2013, the Mount Sinai Hospital’s World Trade Center Health Program published a study finding cancer among WTC responders occurs at a rate 15 percent higher than those not exposed to contaminants at Ground Zero. Among other findings of the report:

  • The study analyzed tumor registry and other medical information concerning responders from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. In 20,984 participants, 575 cancers were found in 522 individuals.
  • Increased risk of developing three types of cancers was found, including blood, thyroid and prostate cancers.
  • Prostate cancer was not among the recently approved conditions by NIOSH.
  • The types of cancers found during the study usually take time to develop — making the need for ongoing monitoring and early treatment essential.

As noted in the Mount Sinai study, responders and recovery workers were exposed to a variety of contaminants throughout their work in responding to the 9/11 tragedy. Unfortunately, for responders and civilian volunteers like Mr. Gonzalez, the tragedy continues.

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