Nearly six years after two planes crashed into the Twin Towers, the number of deaths associated with the attacks continues to climb. Yesterday, the death toll reached 2,750 after Dr. Charles Hirsch, New York City’s chief medical examiner, amended the death certificate of civil rights attorney Felicia Dunn-Jones. Previously, she had been thought to have died of natural causes. Her certificate now notes that exposure to toxic dust from the ruins of the World Trade Center “was contributory to her death.” Dunn-Jones’ certificate is the first to be amended, but perhaps not the last.
More than 7,300 people, including New York City police officers, firemen, and other first responders who inhaled toxins during the city’s 10-month cleanup effort, filed a class-action lawsuit against the city, complaining of deteriorating respiratory health.
New York Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Vito Fossella, who pushed for a review of Dunn-Jones’ case, are continuing to pressure the city’s medical examiner to review other cases. Although Hirsch has no plans to do so, his decision to amend Dunn-Jones’ death certificate could have far-reaching implications and is likely to be cited as evidence in 9/11-related health suits filed against New York City.
Rudy Giuliani may also catch fire from these suits. The city’s mayor, who has framed his presidential campaign around his 9/11 heroism, is facing criticism for his administration’s handling of safety measures during the cleanup effort. The New York Times reported earlier this month that, according to public documents filed in a suit, the city “never meaningfully enforced federal requirements that those at the site wear respirators” and “officials also on some occasions gave flawed public representations of the nature of the health threat, even as they privately worried about exposure to lawsuits by sickened workers.”