Rob Wilson, Ph.D.
Final Abstract for URS Program
After the Twin Towers collapsed on September 11, 2001, first responders assisted rescue and recovery efforts. While clearing debris and searching for survivors at Ground Zero, first responders inhaled particulate matter (PM). PM included pulverized cement, glass fibers, asbestos, and lead. Although first responders had respiratory protective equipment (RPE), the organizations that oversaw the rescue and recovery efforts emphasized neither the necessity of wearing respirators nor the threat of toxins in the air. As a result, many first responders developed respiratory diseases, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and asthma. For instance, James Zadroga was the first New York Police Department (NYPD) officer to die of respiratory failure acquired from participating in the rescue and recovery mission. The severity of these diseases prompted legislative action. In 2011, President Barack Obama signed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 (Zadroga Act) into law. The Zadroga Act included the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund (9/11 VCF), which provided medical treatment and financial assistance for first responders. While the cost of these measures was a concern for some politicians, first responders and their allies’ fervent activism persuaded Congress to fund the Act until 2090.