The Detective James Zadroga Story
The Detective James Zadroga Story
Detective James Zadroga was a New York City Police Department officer who lost his life in the line of duty due to exposure to toxins released from the collapse of the World Trade Center (WTC) during the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. Zadroga’s case was one of the first cases showing the relationship between 9/11 dust and the development of various illnesses. His story illustrates the importance of fighting for the compensation that 9/11 victims and their families deserve.
Remembering James Zadroga and All First Responders
We have many men and women to thank for their bravery and selfless service on 9/11 and in the months afterward. These include rescue workers such as firefighters, police officers, paramedics, clean-up crews, and individuals like Ray Pfeifer, Luis Alvarez, and of course, James Zadroga.
James Zadroga was one of too many, but his death soon after his exposure to the toxic air created during 9/11 told the medical community that there would be many more 9/11 related deaths in the future. The death of James Zadroga brought national attention to the health problems of 9/11 first responders, as well as Lower Manhattan office workers and Downtown residents.
Toxic Air in the Aftermath of 9/11
On September 17, 2001, EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman falsely told the responders, workers, residents and others in Lower Manhattan that the “air was safe to breathe.” Recent statistics reveal to all Americans how wrong that statement was. Over 95,000 individuals suffering from a 9/11-related illness are now enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP).
James Zadroga: A True American Hero
Det. James Zadroga was a hero to many, as he immediately rushed to the scene along with many other brave first responders. He was a survivor, since he managed to escape the World Trade Center as it collapsed. He served over 470 hours at Ground Zero, helping the rescue and recovery operations after September 11, 2001.
The Effects of High Exposure to Ground Zero Dust
During his time serving in the recovery efforts, Detective Zadroga spent hours digging through hazardous debris and inhaling toxic fumes that surrounded the entire Ground Zero area. In the weeks that followed, Detective Zadroga developed a chronic cough, which caused shortness of breath, acid reflux, and regular headaches. He required oxygen tanks in order to breathe and other medications to manage his pain. Despite his illness, he continued to report for duty as a decorated New York City Police Detective. Doctors struggled to diagnose and treat his condition, and it made it difficult for him to work full-time, which in turn created a financial struggle at home. In 2003, doctors were finally able to diagnose him with Black Lung Disease.
The Delay of Disability Benefits
Zadroga was not granted a full disability pension until November 1, 2004. He passed away in 2006 and was one of the first to be recognized for an illness caused by exposure at the 9/11 attack scenes. The Governor at the time signed legislation to expand benefits to workers suffering from 9/11-related illnesses.
Compensation and Care for All Exposed to Ground Zero Toxins - Responders and Downton Workers, Residents & Students
It was not until 2010 that Congress finally recognized the importance of providing care and compensation to those who have been affected by the toxic fallout from the WTC attacks. Named after Detective Zadroga in honor of the sacrifices made by those who were exposed to toxic dust at Ground Zero, Congress has passed legislation providing healthcare and compensation to all individuals – including Lower Manhattan office and other workers, residents, students, and responders – who have since (even many years later) been diagnosed with any cancer or a breathing or digestive illnesses after being exposed to Ground Zero toxins.
2010 - The James L. Zadroga Health and Compensation Act
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was passed to provide medical care and compensation to individuals who were exposed to Ground Zero toxins. The Act established the World Trade Center Health Program which provides no-cost medical monitoring and treatment to those who developed illnesses as a result of their exposure to the toxic air at Ground Zero. The Act also established the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, which provides financial compensation to the families of those who lost their lives due to their exposure to the toxins, including over 70 different types of cancer as well as breathing/digestive conditions.
2015 - The James Zadroga 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Reauthorization
In 2015, the James Zadroga 9/11 VCF Reauthorization was passed to extend the benefits of the Act for another 75 years, until 2090. The Reauthorization ensures that those who were exposed to the toxins at Ground Zero will continue to receive the medical care and compensation they need and deserve. The Reauthorization also includes provisions to ensure that the families of those who died as a result of their exposure to the toxins will continue to receive the compensation they are entitled to.
2019 - The Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund
In July 2019, Congress passed the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. This legislation made the VCF permanent (until the year 2090), ensuring that individuals who were exposed to toxins at Ground Zero will continue to receive the medical care and compensation they need to recover and rebuild their lives.