Peripheral Neuropathy Affecting 9/11 Survivors

A new study published in the January 2016 issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine concludes the exposure to World Trade Center (WTC) dust after 9/11 is associated with “neuropathic symptoms”.  The new  research, conducted by Marc Wilkenfeld, MD and associates from Winthrop University Hospital in Long Island, New York, substantiates the growing number of physical symptoms of 9/11 responders and lower Manhattan residents who are complaining of sensations of “burning, pain, numbness and tingling” in their hands and feet. 

Turley Hansen has been representing clients with peripheral neuropathy for over 25 years, usually as it relates to Type 2 diabetes. No matter the cause. this is often a terribly painful and disabling condition which leads many to apply for Social Security disability benefits.   Medications such as gabapentin (Neurontin) and pregabalin (Lyrica) sometimes relieve nerve pain.  However, there is no cure once the nerves are damaged, which makes 9/11 related neuropathy as serious as many other 9/11 covered conditions under the Zadroga Act and the Victim Compensation Fund. 

If you have been diagnosed with “neuropathy” that you think is the result of exposure to 9/11 dust and toxins, call our office today for a Free Case Review at 1-855-WTC-INFO.

Newsday Article on Neuropathy on those Exposed to 9/11 WTC Dust

New York Newsday recently published an excellent article on the impact of neuropathy on 9/11 responders and residents of lower Manhattan. Based upon the new study published by Dr. Wilkenfeld at Winthrop University Hospital, a petition has been submitted to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to include neuropathy as a “covered ” 9/11 Zadroga Act condition.

The Story of Retired NYPD Officer John Coughlin and his 9/11 Neuropathy 

Now it appears the dust cloud caused even more problems than previously thought. Retired police officer John Coughlin, who worked in recovery after the attacks, has endured heart disease, sinusitis, stomach problems, PTSD, diminished lung capacity and chronic acid reflux following 9/11.

Coughlin then began having numbness and tingling in his feet, then in his fingers. With little feeling in his feet, Coughlin had to be very careful when walking lest he step on something sharp without realizing it. Since the nerves in his feet were damaged, any wound he received would be extremely slow to heal.

The latest Winthrop study has placed symptoms of neuropathy even higher than among the population of Type 1 diabetics. It is unknown whether the nerve damage was a result of breathing in the toxic dust or exposed skin.

What is Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy is a result of damage to your peripheral nerves and often causes weakness, numbness and pain in your hands and feet. Peripheral neuropathy can result from traumatic injuries, infections, metabolic problems, diabetes, inherited causes and exposure to toxins. It is this “exposure to toxins” from 9/11 WTC dust which has caused so much neuropathy in 9/11 responders and lower Manhattan residents. 

Those Exposed to 9/11 Dust “15 Times More Likely” to Develop Neuropathy

Dr. Wilkenfeld, a physician who has treated hundreds of World Trade Center patients, became alarmed when he began hearing the same list of symptoms from one patient after another. In an interview, Dr. Wilkenfeld noted that more than one patient had their hand go so numb so quickly, they dropped a cup of coffee or something else they were holding. Dr. Wilkenfield joined forces with Mark Stecker, MD who has done prior studies which tested how the nerves of rats react to various substances.

After obtaining some of the toxic dust from the World Trade Center, Stecker and Wilkenfeld ran tests on rats, using the dust. Clearly, the dust damaged the nerves of the rats. Stecker and Wilkenfield then surveyed 255 people, half of whom had been exposed to the toxic dust cloud of the World Trade Center. The exposed patients were a staggering 15 times more likely to exhibit severe neuropathy symptoms than those who had not been exposed to the dust.

What’s in the Toxic Dust from 9/11 that causes Neuropathy?

When the South, then the North Towers came down, vast clouds of dust swirled, blocking the sunlight and putting those below in a near-black environment. When the dust clouds settled, virtually every surface was covered with a fine, penetrating dust, which permeated buildings below, contaminating air conditioning systems and requiring extensive decontamination measures. The dust was thicker downwind of the complex, settling in depths as much as three inches a full six blocks from the World Trade Center.

This toxic dust cloud was comprised of pulverized glass and cement, asbestos, benzene, sulfur, radionuclides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, brominated diphenyl ethers, phthalate esters, poly-chlorinated biphenyls, dibenzodioxins and dibenzofurans.

Philip Landrigan, chairman of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and a major 9/11 health researcher called the dust “nasty stuff.”  Landrigan stated that two-thirds of the mass was pulverized concrete, which is very caustic, with a pH as high as 11. Those high alkaline pH levels are believed to be what burned the eyes, noses, respiratory tracts and esophagus’ of 9/11 survivors.

Will Neuropathy Become a Covered 9/11 Disease under the Zadroga Act?

Unfortunately, neuropathy is not among the diseases covered under the new Zadroga Reauthorization Act currently. The disease is being considered for 9/11 Zadroga Act coverage, however a formal medical peer review is necessary before adding a new illness. Neuropathy has no cure, and, in most cases, progresses over time, making it an extremely painful and disabling disease. Hopefully, it will be added within the next year as a 9/11 covered illness.

Just like Turley Hansen did with our successful fight for inclusion of cancer under the Zadroga Act, we will do the same for neuropathy.

9/11 WTC Cancers Still on the Rise

Various 9/11 cancers, such as leukemia, myelomakidney and lung cancer, melanoma, prostate and bladder cancers and mesothelioma are being seen more and more often among those who survived 9/11 WTC dust cloud, even though cancer was just added in 2012 as a covered disease under the Zadroga Act.

A relatively new set of symptoms which includes what many call a “terrible numbness” in their hands and feet, is the most recent complaint observed by doctors who examine survivors of 9/11. The issue is known as neuropathy, and causes tingling and pain in the nerve endings of the extremities.

Extended Medical Coverage to 2090 through World Trade Center Health Program

In late 2015, Congress passed an updated version of the Zadroga Act which extended medical coverage for survivors and first responders of 9/11 through 2090. Now neuropathy must be added to the list of covered diseases. If you or a loved one has suffered neuropathy or any other disease related to your exposure to the toxic dust of 9/11, it can be extremely beneficial to speak to an experienced attorney about your symptoms.

Doctors who examine 9/11 survivors typically ask a specific set of questions in order to determine whether the patient’s afflictions were the result of the toxic dust cloud that settled over the World Trade Center following the bombings.

Support Adding Neuropathy as a Covered Illness in the 9/11 Zadroga Act

We  encourage all first responders and their families to join us in supporting the addition of neuropathy to the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

Should you have any questions about the Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act or World Trade Center Health Program and the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, please call us for a Free Case Review at 1-855-WTC-INFO, click the chat button or contact us at the top of this page.

We will continue to keep you updated on the status of adding neuropathy as a covered 9/11 illness under the Zadroga Act.