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FDNY union wants autoimmune illnesses added to 9/11 list

More cases of autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis, are surfacing among first responders say FDNY union officials who want to add these to the list of certified 9/11 related illnesses covered by the Zadroga Act.

Doctors at the WTC Health Program have compiled evidence to support their belief that these illnesses were caused by exposure to toxins and dust at Ground Zero, said James Lemonda, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association.

“The doctors are telling us that the numbers are going up,” Lemonda said Friday at the union’s Manhattan office. “The 9/11 doctors right now believe that they have enough medical documentation to make it indisputable.”

A 2015 study published in the American College of Rheumatology Journal found that extended periods of exposure to the chemicals and airborne debris from the collapsed towers, where fires burned for months during the recovery and cleanup effort, may have triggered autoimmune diseases.

Autoimmune diseases are those in which the body attacks and damages its own tissues In multiple sclerosis, the immune system attacks the central nervous system.

The study documented 59 cases after 2004 with more cases in 2010. According to the study early detection can “facilitate early treatment to minimize organ damage and improve quality of life.”

Since the study, the World Trade Center Health Program, which monitors and treats thousands of first responders, recovery workers, residents and other workers exposed to the dust and debris from the collapsed Twin Towers, has started to collect data on autoimmune disease cases, according to its website.

Since May, more than 10,000 FDNY members who are being monitored at the WTC Health Program have at least one certified 9/11-related health condition, Lemonda said. “This represents roughly 2/3 of our FDNY responders,” he said.

With the nation and city reflecting on the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks “we need to continue to support our first responders who acted as the nation’s domestic soldiers when our soil was attacked in a terrorist war,” Lemonda said.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 was extended until 2090 to offer medical coverage to people who have fallen ill because of their exposure to the Ground Zero toxins. Respiratory diseases, rhinosinusitis, gastroesophageal reflux disorder, depression and most cancers are now covered under the act.

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