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NYC adds post-9/11 death to victims toll

AP | May 24, 2007 
Amy Westfeldt

NEW YORK --A woman who died of lung disease five months after Sept. 11 was added Wednesday to the medical examiner's list of attack victims, marking the first time the city has officially linked a death to the toxic dust caused by the World Trade Center's collapse.

Felicia Dunn-Jones, a 42-year-old attorney who was caught in the dust cloud while fleeing the collapsing towers on Sept. 11, 2001, died of sarcoidosis, a disease that causes inflammation and scarring in the lungs, on Feb. 10, 2002.

"Mrs. Dunn-Jones' exposure to World Trade Center dust on 9/11/01 contributed to her death, and it has been ruled a homicide," Chief Medical Examiner Charles Hirsch wrote.

The city said the Sept. 11 death toll at the trade center now stands at 2,750. Dunn-Jones will be listed on the Sept. 11 memorial when it opens in 2009, a spokeswoman for the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation said.

Dunn-Jones' family had asked last year that the medical examiner add her name to the death toll, but Hirsch wrote at the time that his office could not link her death to the exposure "with certainty beyond a reasonable doubt."

Since then, a doctor for the Fire Department of New York published a study that found firefighters who worked at ground zero contracted sarcoidosis at a much higher rate after the Sept. 11 attacks than before, linking the disease firmly to the dust exposure.

Previously, Dunn-Jones' estate received a $2.6 million death benefit from a federal fund to compensate victims' families.

A class action lawsuit has claimed dozens of deaths have been caused by exposure to toxic trade center dust. A New Jersey medical examiner last year ruled that the January 2006 death of a retired police detective, 34-year-old James Zadroga, was "directly related" to his work at ground zero on and after Sept. 11.

Zadroga's father, Joseph Zadroga, said that his son also suffered from sarcoidosis and that he and many others should be added to the list of victims with Dunn-Jones.

"I think that anybody that passes as a result of 9/11 should be listed on the wall," said Zadroga. "They're going to be adding to that wall for the next 20 years."

Dunn-Jones was not one of the plaintiffs suing the city. But David Worby, the attorney who filed the lawsuit, said he hopes listing her as a Sept. 11 victim bolsters arguments that people exposed to the toxic plume of pulverized concrete, jet fuel, asbestos and other toxins can contract rare diseases very quickly.

Worby said more than 100 of his clients have died, and said at least five of those people had sarcoidosis.

New York lawmakers, some of whom urged the city to add Dunn-Jones to the death toll last year, said more people should be added in the future.

"Sadly, we have known that Felicia is not alone and that others have died from ailments caused by 9/11," said U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. "I hope that the medical examiner is no longer in denial about the trade center dust. Dr. Hirsch must review the cases of other 9/11 heroes who, like Felicia, died in the prime of their lives."

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