Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Why are Ground Zero workers getting sick?
Could this be a coincidence? Is this for real? How will we ever know? Those are just some of the questions I asked myself when writing about workers and emergency responders from Ground Zero who now claim they're sick from the toxic cocktail to which they were exposed.

I got to know two guys in particular. They are former New York Police Department detectives Rich Volpe and John Wolcott, partners for 11 years in the narcotics division.

They worked together on the pile at the World Trade Center site for nine months. Now Wolcott has leukemia and Volpe has double kidney failure. Both blame their illnesses on the toxins at Ground Zero, like benzene and dioxin.

Click here to read more
Posted By Randi Kaye, CNN Correspondent: 10:21 AM ET
  28 Comments
Hi Randi-
This appears to not be a concidence at all, but a horrible result of toxic exposure from ground zero. Of course elevated liver enzymes in these men would indicate toxic exposure and I did not hear that mentioned in your interview. Maybe its a given. I do feel that the government should cover Volpe and Wolcott's medical needs immdiately. I wish these courageous men and others like them, health and a speedy recovery.
Posted By Anonymous Betty Ann, Nacogdoches TX : 10:45 AM ET
It shouldn't take a medical degree to understand that there are consequences to exposing the human body to toxic substances. We need only to look around at the chemicals we ingest and the corresponding rise in cancer rates of all types. The fact that these rescue workers are sick in less than the 15-25 year dormancy period only seems logical to me, given the potency and duration of exposure. It's not like they inhaled something once or twice- they were exposed day after day after day, sometimes with no protection.
They fact that their plight is being ignored by insurance companies, their employers, and the government in general, is not suprising. When have our protecters EVER been taken care of properly?
Posted By Anonymous Anne, Charlotte NC : 10:56 AM ET
Randi - this is the worst news ever. All these people who tried to help with their hearts are now terminally ill!

Thanks for bringing this out but I have to admit the irony of this story is most heartbreaking.
Posted By Anonymous Nicki, Calgary, Alberta : 10:59 AM ET
It sickens me when this starts and everyone is backing up saying "we're not paying for this" or "until we are 100% sure how these people are getting sick, we're not responsible"... This is when I am embarrassed for our country... These people have terrible illnesses and are dying, that's the bottom line, WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT...Let's Help them, for gosh sakes...
Posted By Anonymous Sherry Sarasota, Fl : 11:01 AM ET
Hi Randi,
We should add more funds to the Veterans Hospitals and medical facilities..Not only for our Veterans but for the Ground Zero Heroes to get the proper care..They've earned it..I don't see how anyone could deny they have lasting health issues from a War Zone like 9-11..Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton,Calif. : 11:06 AM ET
Hey Randi, I don't see how they couldn't blame their illnesses on working amonst all that filth and who knows what other germs were lurking there. This is so typical of the 'powers that be' covering up so as not to pay. These men should not only receive back compensation, but a shiny gold medal or statue as a daily reminder of their heroism.
Rmember how long it took them to admit Tobacco was a killer. They should be able to sue alone just for not supplying face masks immediatley.
Posted By Anonymous Bev Whitby ON Canada : 11:30 AM ET
I spend a night down at Ground Zero with the Red Cross helping the relief workers when I was 7 weeks pregnant. I had a miscarriage the next day. I don't know if it is becuase of the conditions or it would have happen anyway. But I do know that I will never be able to erase that smell from my memory.
Posted By Anonymous Dana LA, CA : 11:39 AM ET
Hi Randi,
I read your article and it made me feel so upset I just sent the following to Mayor Bloomberg:
Dear Mayor Bloomberg,
I am very concerned about the health of ground zero workers. I don't understand why they are having trouble getting healthcare paid for. Please fix this problem. It doesn't matter to me if their illnesses can be proven originated at ground zero, let's make sure they are taken care of!! I would be proud to contribute/donate to a fund for these fine men and women. Please make some noise and make it happen! The 5th anniversary of 9/11 would have been a fine time to remind America they need our help. If we take care of them regardless of how they got sick, just because they helped people, you will see more people rush in to help when the next attack comes. Let us prove we really are a grateful nation. Sincerely, Mary Zimmer of Santa Cruz
Posted By Anonymous Mary Zimmer, Santa Cruz, CA : 12:00 PM ET
I find it interesting that Dr. Levin, the EPA, and City officials have all these reasons as to why Ground Zero exposure couldn't possibly be the reason for all these people getting cancer. Perhaps if we spent more time and money finding a cure for cancer rather than defending each other, we'd all be that much better!
Posted By Anonymous Jolene, St. Joseph, MI : 12:25 PM ET
It truly is disheartening to hear about the illnesses of the heroes of 9/11. There should be no question regarding the cause- Ground Zero. These people deserve our support and should not have to worry about paying medical bills. To think that they put their lives on the line to help others and now are paying with their own lives...

I was in NYC a few weeks after 9/11 and I felt ill breathing the stagnant air blocks away from the site. These people were exposed for months. I wouldn't be surprised if there are higher rates of these types of illnesses in the general population of NYC. I truly hope not.
Posted By Anonymous Cara, San Jose, CA : 12:51 PM ET
Surely they inhaled a ton on glass, metal, and bone shard dust that would stick in the lungs the way asbestos does. Sad. But anyone who was close enough to have breathed in that dust is in danger of lung cancer or mesothelioma.
Posted By Anonymous Ted, Royal Oak, Michigan : 1:01 PM ET
We spend millions on warfare, but yet
can't help these men and women who risked their lives ?!?! The same goes for those coming back from Iraq, and Afganistan, wounded, dismembered, and traumatized, once you have done your duty and they have no use for you any
longer, it seems you are forgotten !
Something MORE needs to be done !!!!

I don't get it, and apparently neither
does the insurance companies, and the beuracrats they have in their back pockets.
Posted By Anonymous Ed, Corona, Ca. : 1:16 PM ET
It is not surprising to me, after visiting Ground Zero 3 weeks after 9/11, that people are experiencing health problems. Judging from the inch thick dust covering everything, it seems almost inevitable that problems would ensue. The air smelled strange and felt stale and heavy. Out of everything I witnessed that day, I will never forget seeing Americans walk around with gas masks. It was a surreal image that will forever be burned in my memories. So it seems odd to me that they went to such drastic measures to protect people then, and yet, almost seem to deny the existence of toxicity now. The proof lies in my photo album. It is a gas mask order form.
Posted By Anonymous Brianna, Boston, MA : 1:19 PM ET
For the love of all things holy, do NOT let a "federally funded" group do a research study on this. I see on CNN.com today that another 'federally funded" study just ruled that there is no such thing as Gulf War Syndrome.

This administration will more than likely sweep this under the rug, denying extra health benefits and care. Get use to it, as tragic as it is.
Posted By Anonymous Hayley, Denver, CO : 1:22 PM ET
It seems to me that, the number of victims of WTC will be keeping growing endless.

But this time, the authorities don't have an excuse not to help them. Although I'm sure the authorities as usual, will try to avoid any kind of costs, financially and politically speaking, and will try blame others for that.
Posted By Anonymous Gustavo Bastos, San Francisco, California : 1:33 PM ET
Of course they are getting sick! The industrial chemicals we put into virtually every building are extremely hazardous especially when breathed through the lungs. Prolonged exposure is undoubtedly going to make it worse. The sad part is, the best thing to do at Ground Zero would probably have been to tell everyone to leave and then come in w/ hazard suits to clean it up.

The chemicals that make our post-industrial world are dangerous. We either need to accept this and take it into account (when buildings collapse, for example) or revolutionize our building techniques.

A good rule of thumb is if you don't know what it is, don't inhale deeply...
Posted By Anonymous Matthew Connor, San Antonio, Texas : 2:10 PM ET
These gentlemen, and others like them, worked tirelessly to help NYC pick up the pieces and try to somehow move on. Why are these people being denied insurance coverage? If you're sick, you're sick!!! Are the insurance companies saying that it's work related therefore, workmen's comp should take effect? It's these kinds of things that really confuse me about our country and mostly the insurance issues. Get these men and the many others the healthcare they need no matter how it has to be done. I hate to even say this but as an example: We can bring children over here from other countries and provide them care because of diseases they have or defects they were born with but we can't and don't take care of our own. Children or adults. There are too many of our own suffering and doing without.
Posted By Anonymous Carrie, Indianapolis, IN : 2:13 PM ET
Sadly, this shouldn't surprise anyone at all. We knew even then when they were working down there that the conditions were terrible and going to make them sick eventually, even kill them.

This is not to blame the courageous volunteers. This is to blame the government for not helping to get equipment to those people there, like the necessary masks. It took wonderful acts by people there to help the workers out. For example, the police knew that cops got important equipment first, like better boots. Since they didn't need them, they all found a worker that needed it, and each got shoes, and then gave the worker those shoes. Our government needs to protect its people, especially when they all knew the air was full of asbestos, human remains, and more.

I think everyone knew that sickness was going to come, so for insurance companies and skeptics to say, "well, we're not sure if that's what did it", is just a business decision they know is wrong. They don't want to pay up.
Posted By Anonymous Tony, Boston MA : 2:17 PM ET
Kind of like the Rambo movie. "If your caught, we will deny any knowledge of your existence". Come on George Bush. Buck up and take care of the americans that tirelessly worked to rescue those at ground zero. Show God and the american public that you are on top of this. These heros deserve more from us. Hey, I bet if a powerful political figure had these health issues because he/she worked at the towers after 9/11, things would be a little different. Just a thought.
Posted By Anonymous Brad Taylor Nashville, Tennessee : 2:26 PM ET
I get very annoyed with this country that we can send billions to other countries to help people but for some reason can't help our own.
The workers in NYC or our military.
Politicians are you listening?
Posted By Anonymous DColeman Phx AZ : 2:30 PM ET
I regret for these two guys. They didn't deserve the illnesses 'cause they were heroes saving as many lifes as they could save.
Otherwise,i'm sure they knew they were at risk of contracting illnesses,but the number of persons who needed help inmediately,was too much for them.
I hope their health may get better soon.
Posted By Anonymous Federico Cimbaro, Buenos Aires, Argentina : 3:41 PM ET
I agree that it is a terrible tragedy and one that seems to compound the original tragedy of 9/11. These brave men and women went in to a "war zone" to save the lives of our fellow citizens and now they are paying the ultimate price. Why can't we find it in our hearts, just as they did on 9/11, to help them? We need to open up our VA Hospitals to these workers and see what help, if any, we can provide. After all they did isn't this the least we should do? Shame on our government if we don't help. Wouldn't we then be just as horrible as those that blew the WTC building up? Any additional loss of life due to the original tragedy is now blood on our hands.
Posted By Anonymous Kimberly M. Ann Arbor, MI : 3:42 PM ET
It is not surprising when given the circumstances that people are developing illnesses related to 9/11. Exposure to insulation, foam fire retardent, building supplies, and chemicals of all sorts I would be surprised if people did not have problems. Osama got us in the first round with the planes,and now with different forms of cancer, and sickness. If Muslims embrace death so much, and we fear it, I would like to help Osama embrace his own demise!
Posted By Anonymous Marilyn Columbia SC : 4:36 PM ET
Randi:
Thanks to CNN you have the capacity to reach the homes of most Americans. I am sure that if most Americans listen to this story, we (The Federal Government and the People of the US) have to provide the necessary funds to assist every ground zero heroe in despair. These individuals gave everything they had 5 years ago, including their health, now it is our turn. Thank you.
Posted By Anonymous Gianluca P-- Portland, Oregon : 4:37 PM ET
Hey Randi - how close to Ground Zero did people have to be to suffer from breathing this toxic substances? What about people living and working close by? like Anderson and others who live in New York?

I don't understand how they can deny that the illnesses came from Ground Zero; even in normal fires that don't burn for days on end, toxic substances and such are given off. Why else would be people need to be treated for "smoke inhalation"?
Posted By Anonymous Christina, Windber, PA : 4:41 PM ET
I live 15 miles due west of Ground Zero, in suburban NJ and I can tell you that, the predominant news report concerning the quality of air over lower NY in the days immediately proceeding 9-11 was former NJ Governor Whitman stating that the air was perfectly safe to breathe. This despite the fact that that cloud over lower Manhattan was visible from as far away as Essex County, NJ. Ironically, having some history with her as a former governor and her lack of attention to the environment as governor, I, along with many NJ residents, was less than relieved. I remember discussing with friends here what the results of breathing all that debris would be for the first responders, the tireless workers in the pit for all those months, the residents of lower Manhattan and finally, for all the folks who lived at that time anywhere near Manhattan including NJ. I fear we're only now seeing the beginning of the continuing death of the terrorist attacks of September 11.
Posted By Anonymous Phyllis Nespoli Cohen, West Caldwell, NJ : 6:16 PM ET
Hi Randi,
The fight which Wolcott and Volpe are fighting is a big one to reform health legislation for those good people, the first responders affected by disease post 9/11.
There was high intensity of levels of toxins exposure, radiation, and what to speak the impact on mental health.
I remember the way the air smelled a month after 9/11 when I came close to that area: like burned jet-fuel.
The doctor who can not correlate increased cancer cases of first responders to ground zero, should go back and re-evaluate his scientific knowledge and know that there is always a new development in knowledge about cancer and other diseases: the time-factor in toxin exposure may be irrelevant here after all and intensity of toxin exposure more important.
Posted By Anonymous Ratna, New York, NY : 7:23 PM ET
I personally did not like Bush bashing by world leaders over the past couple of days. It think it demeaning and disrespectfull.

However, I wanted to remind you that president Bush used similaer terms for three soveriegn nations as "exis of evil" He not only denounced those regimes, but also insulted the people of those nations.

Having said that, it is fair that others are using the same language now.
Posted By Anonymous Dilshad Khawaja Hillsborough NJ : 11:10 PM ET
ABOUT THE BLOG
A behind the scenes look at "Anderson Cooper 360°" and the stories it covers, written by Anderson Cooper and the show's correspondents and producers.




SUBSCRIBE
    What's this?
CNN Comment Policy: CNN encourages you to add a comment to this discussion. You may not post any unlawful, threatening, libelous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic or other material that would violate the law. Please note that CNN makes reasonable efforts to review all comments prior to posting and CNN may edit comments for clarity or to keep out questionable or off-topic material. All comments should be relevant to the post and remain respectful of other authors and commenters. By submitting your comment, you hereby give CNN the right, but not the obligation, to post, air, edit, exhibit, telecast, cablecast, webcast, re-use, publish, reproduce, use, license, print, distribute or otherwise use your comment(s) and accompanying personal identifying information via all forms of media now known or hereafter devised, worldwide, in perpetuity. CNN Privacy Statement.