By Cynthia Magnus
Special to Brooklyn Daily Eagle
BROOKLYN — Bedford-Stuyvesant resident Daniel Moynihan lives with the effects of 9/11 toxic dust exposure and currently suffers from a benign though rare brain tumor that requires surgery.
On September 11, 2001, Moynihan, a Marine Corps veteran, was a volunteer firefighter in Freeport, L.I., with 18 years experience. He was at work driving a truck in lower Manhattan when the first plane struck the World Trade Center. He immediately went to Ground Zero, where he spent the next 12 hours. He was taken to Long Island College Hospital later that day to be treated for smoke inhalation, dehydration and heat exhaustion.
He worked on “The Pile,” as many responders call it, for the next month.
He and partner Jarret Yoshida are currently interviewing experts skilled enough to remove the acoustic neuroma close to Moynihan’s brain stem, which has already stolen part of his hearing. They may have to travel as far as Los Angeles for the treatment, which may cost up to $100,000 including the surgery, hospital stay and subsequent four- to six-week outpatient care.
Before his exposure to WTC dust, Moynihan played football, ran cross-country, played ice hockey and rugby and lifted weights. Now, explains Yoshida, “ Everyday things like breathing and walking up stairs are things Dan can’t take for granted.”
As the debate over the addition of cancer to the list of covered 9/11-related conditions heats up, many 9/11 survivors suffer from myriad illnesses, including pulmonary disease, cluster headaches, post-traumatic stress disorder, lung scarring, liver disease and other conditions.
Getting adequate health insurance coverage is a challenge for almost all survivors. Many conditions are not treated at the five Centers for Excellence established in New York and New Jersey to treat those injured or sickened by 9/11 hazards.
Moynihan, who had to stop working in 2006 due to his increasing illness, currently has disability benefits, won only after a three-year bureaucratic battle. He said, “It’s all about economics. It’s money over American lives.”
He added that the men and women who responded on 9/11 were the first wave of responders in what politicians often call the “war on terror.” He said, “Since we literally are the first troops on the ground, put us under the VA [Department of Veterans Affairs].”
The issue of whether cancer is caused by exposure to the dust cloud caused by the WTC attacks is one of the topics on the agenda during the upcoming World Trade Center Health Program Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee meetings on February 15 and 16 at 26 Federal Plaza. The public can attend or dial into teleconference, and submit testimony at http://www.cdc.gov/NIOSH/topics/wtc/stac/meetings/
PBA Press Conference
At a Sunday press conference at the headquarters of the Police Benevolent Association (PBA), PBA President Patrick Lynch said, “Common sense dictates when you work in a toxic cloud — at the end of that service it will create cancer. To say that we need science to tell us that defies logic, defies common sense, and defies our moral obligation to men and women who are dying from these cancers.”
Richard Lee, Ph.D., a forensic expert who analyzed the dust-covered uniform worn on 9/11 by Police Officer Alonzo Harris, said, “The dust clouds caused by the collapse of the World Trade Center contained carcinogens, toxic elements, heavy metals, far beyond the concentrations that you would expect to find in any ordinary explosion.”
John Feal, founder of the FealGood Foundation, which advocates for 9/11 responders, said, “I think it’s all about money. Human life takes a back seat to economics.” Feal said decision-makers should be considering other models besides epidemiology, which is based on many studies over a long time. “Why wouldn’t they use unprecedented models for getting answers?”
Yoshida said, “This government intentionally told responders that it was safe to be down there. It’s too late to try to create limits when you’ve already exposed them to unlimited danger.
“There have been life choices that have been absolutely eliminated for us,” he added. “This has been going on for eight years, it’s only gotten worse. Dan has always wanted children — he’s a great uncle and would be a great father.”
Yoshida, who is from Hawaii, said that air travel is also out of the question for Moynihan because the change in air pressure gives him excruciating headaches. “No Hawaii retirement,” he said, adding that it is difficult for them to not be able to visit half their family.
About Moynihan’s debilitating headaches, Yoshida said, “Dan has physical manifestations of headache,” describing the swollen eyes and head swelling during a typical spell. Moynihan has medical coverage for the headaches, which he has been hospitalized for 21 times - but it is Yoshida’s health insurance, not 9/11 related health care. “It’s not subjective, you can see [the symptoms],” said Yoshida.
“They are an exceptionally patriotic group of people,” Yoshida said of 9/11 responders, “and now they are basically being abandoned. I think it’s hurtful for them.” He said that cancer is also in the back of their minds -- “You’d have to be a fool not to be worried about it.”
Councilman Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn Heights/DUMBO) has been vocal in advocating for the addition of cancers to the list of conditions covered by Zadroga. “It’s very rare in politics that the morality of an issue is so clear cut,” he said.
Levin has co-organized a rally at City Hall at 1 p.m. on Wednesday with downtown Manhattan Councilwoman Margaret Chin to call on the mayor to release NYPD 9/11-related cancer statistics. Rally supporters will include the PBA and other unions.
“There’s got to be a way that they can release it without compromising the privacy of the individuals,” said Levin, responding to the administration’s position that releasing the data could violate privacy.
Borough President Marty Markowitz said Monday, “Thousands of first responders rushed into the World Trade Center on 9/11 without regard for their personal safety. Including cancer in the Zadroga Act is the least the federal government can do to repay this heroism.”