An autopsy of a retired NYPD detective confirmed what his family and fellow cops had long suspected–that James Zadroga’s death was “directly related” to the Ground Zero cleanup. The findings are believed to mark the first time the death of a cleanup worker has been officially tied to the aftermath of the terror attacks, reports the New York Daily News. “It is felt with a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the cause of death in this case was directly related to the 9/11 incident,” Dr. Gerard Breton, a New Jersey pathologist, wrote in the Feb. 28 autopsy report.
Zadroga died on Jan. 5 of pulmonary disease and respiratory failure, and he had lung-tissue inflammation Breton attributed to “a history of exposure to toxic fumes and dust.” Zadroga spent more than 450 hours at Ground Zero, digging through debris and inhaling the noxious gases that are believed to be related to death. He retired on disability in 2004 after developing respiratory ailments. In January, the Daily News reported that 22 other men, most in their 30s and 40s, have died from causes their families say were accelerated by working at Ground Zero after the attacks. Hundreds more are said to have symptoms of respiratory problems.