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FDNY Retirements Jump Since 9/11

9/11 Health Care Bill Reopens Victims' Compensation Fund

The number of New York firefighters who have taken disability retirement has increased sharply since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, New York researchers report.

In a new online article in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York and New York University analyzed the increased proportion of service-connected accidental disability retirements on the Fire Department of New York pension system.

In the seven years before 9/11, 48 percent of the 3,261 New York firefighters who retired took accidental disability retirements. In seven years after 9/11, 4,502 firefighters retired and 66 percent were accidental disability retirements, nearly half of which were related to injuries or illness from the World Trade Center attacks.

The researchers said that the increase in accidental disability retirements was for the most part due to respiratory-related illnesses. Firefighters have an increased risk of exposure to airborne hazards. Additional increases were attributed to psychological-related illnesses and musculoskeletal injuries from the World Trade Center.

The researchers concluded that the 9/11 attacks affected the health of the FDNY firefighters leading to more retirements than expected and a larger proportion of retirees claiming accidental disability pensions. Pension benefits associated with World Trade Center accidental disability retirements have increased the financial burden on the FDNY pension system by $826 million.

Researchers at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York recently reported in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine that NY emergency personnel who responded after the World Trade Center terrorist attacks have shown an increased incidence of pulmonary inflammation. More than 50,000 men and women were exposed to products of combustion, asbestos and particulate matter after the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks.

A previous medical study published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that New York firefighters who worked at Ground Zero still have significantly abnormal lung function nearly a decade later. Some dust from the collapsed World Trade Center towers contained asbestos and other toxics, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In December, Congress provided $1.4 billion over five years for ongoing monitoring and treatment of illnesses stemming from exposure to toxic dust and debris after the 9/11 attacks. Over time, the monitoring program may help define what qualifies as a 9/11-related illness. Several groups are currently conducting studies of cancer deaths among ground zero workers.

Some dust from the World Trade Center destruction contained asbestos and other contaminants, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Inhaling airborne asbestos is closely associated with respiratory disease including lung cancer and mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung. Symptoms of mesothelioma typically take 20 to 40 years to appear after exposure to asbestos.

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