At a time when the Bush regime is seeking to prosecute director Michael Moore for taking volunteers on Ground Zero to Cuba for treatment, comes an embarrassing admission from New York's civic authorities.
City's chief medical examiner, Dr. Charles S. Hirsch, has confirmed that dust from the twin towers contributed to the death of Felicia Dunn-Jones, 42, a civil rights lawyer who was engulfed on Sept. 11 as she ran from her office a block away from the World Trade Center.
She developed a serious cough and had trouble breathing, and she died five months later.
Her name will be added to the official list of World Trade Center victims, and the official number of people who died as a result of the attack on the twin towers will be increased to 2,750.
The city is already under pressure to re-examine the deaths of people like James Zadroga, 34, a New York police detective who worked at the debris pile in the months after the towers fell. Although a New Jersey pathologist who conducted an autopsy last year concluded that Detective Zadroga's death was linked to trade center dust, city officials have not accepted that finding.
The medical examiner's decision could now be cited as supporting evidence in the federal lawsuits filed against the city by thousands of firefighters, police officers and recovery workers who say they were injured by breathing the dust during the 10-month cleanup.
A report published this month in a medical journal showed a sharp increase in the number of cases of sarcoidosis among New York City firefighters in the first two years after Sept. 11.
Sarcoidosis produces microscopic lumps called granulomas on vital organs and is often associated with exposure to environmental hazards.
Experts say that even brief exposure to dust could aggravate the pre-existing sarcoidosis, but not otherwise.
'Sarcoidosis in general is usually a disorder of years, but sometimes it goes undiagnosed,' said Dr. Ronald G. Crystal, chief of the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell hospital. 'Then the conditions are recognized, and people die in a few months.'
Dr. Crystal said that some people are more genetically predisposed to sarcoidosis than others, but it remains a relatively rare disease and not one that should concern people who were briefly exposed to the dust.
'If there is going to be a significant increase in sarcoidosis connected with this type of exposure, it would have appeared by now,' Dr. Crystal said.