Felicia Dunn-Jones died Feb. 10, 2002, and the cause of her death was determined to be sarcoidosis with cardiac involvement, said the New York City medical examiner's office.This is the first official death attributed, at least in part, to exposure to toxic fumes and dust at Ground Zero.
"The office of chief medical examiner has thus concluded that Mrs. Dunn-Jones' exposure to World Trade Center dust on 9/11/01 contributed to her death and it has been ruled a homicide," read a news release from the agency, which had previously refused to include her in the list of 9/11 victims.
Eighteen thousand people were evacuated from those buildings. Hundreds of thousands of people work in the immediate vicinity. Millions were barraged with smoke for weeks afterwards.
For most of that time frame that the rubble burned and smoldered, throwing off fumes and dust, the prevailing winds carried the smoke offshore for the most part. If you believe in God, this may be a piece of evidence, since the weather at that time of summer usually comes up from the south, which would have meant millions more exposed to the stench and particles.
One day, I think it may have been the following Wednesday, the winds shifted around, and the fumes blew up into Manhattan. I remember that day well. I remember smelling the air and knowing I was smelling death. It was the second worst smell in my lifetime (I grew up across the river from a fat rending plant).
Many believe that the recent spike in respiratory disease in the city is due to exposure to these toxins. While I'd find it hard to agree with that conclusion, I cannot deny the possibility. Certainly, asbestos was in the air, and who knows what toxins from carpeting, dust, and other materials burned in the intense heat were released.
Sarcoidosis is an immune system disease that is caused by small tumours called "granulomas" which are epithelial cells that have been encapsulated by lymph cells (I'm sure at least one medical professional will complain about that description, but we're not medical experts here, and I've probably already taxed my readership's biology knowledge at "epithelial").
In and of itself, sarcoidosis is not necessarily fatal, but its immunosuppressive features can activate other diseases, such as tuberculosis. And of course, breathing becomes a chore.
On a lighter note, another effect of the 9/11 attacks was seen yesterday, as a peregrine falcon nest was discovered atop the Queens tower of the Throgs Neck Bridge. Peregrines are not unusual in New York City, preferring to nest high above the streets of the city. However, with the continual bustle of building at the World Trade Center site, their usual nesting places in lower Manhattan (such as One Wall Street) are too noisy (yes, noisy) for them to feel comfortable raising chicks there.
Oddly enough, the Throgs Neck Bridge, which is probably more conducive to a falcon nest anyway, is being renovated, which is how the nest was discovered. This is the first set of falcon nestlings born on top of the bridge since the 1980s, another indicator that the falcons have been forced away from their usual haunts in lower Manhattan, where nestlings were an annual occurence.