A twenty-year veteran of the Fire Department of New York has died due to cancer caused by his time spent working at the World Trade Center site following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. The NY Daily News reported that George Froehlich began his career in 1982 at Ladder Company 242 in Brooklyn before joining Ladder Company 87 in Staten Island until he retired in 2002. Froehlich battled prostate cancer before he passed away and is reportedly the 9th FDNY member to die from a 9/11-related illness this year.
According to his family members, Froehlich “helped ferry supplies back and forth to the World Trade Center site for months after the 9/11 attacks.” Froehlich’s death was preceded by the deaths of two retired NYPD officers and a fire battalion chief. NYPD Lt. William Wanser, Detective Pedro Esponda and Watertown Fire Battalion Chief David Lachenauer all died from cancer related to first responder efforts after 9/11.
Since the 9/11 attacks, more than 3,000 first responders have died from similar illnesses. In late 2017, The Hill described a recently recognized cancer cluster related to dust from the collapse of the World Trade Center towers:
A cancer cluster is emerging in lower Manhattan that has victimized former school children and teachers. Doctors from the WTC Health Program have certified that these cancers were caused by exposure to the toxic dust from the World Trade Center collapse.
In addition, the Hill reported that “New York City firefighters and police officers who responded that day, and/or worked on the debris pile afterwards, lost an average of 12 year’s lung capacity. They were not the only ones breathing in that air. Residents, office workers, construction workers removing the debris, and students and teachers were all exposed to the same toxins.”
To understand the origins of these first responder illnesses, it’s important to remember the weeks following the attacks. One week after the attacks, the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman released a statement declaring that the air and water surrounding Ground Zero to be safe to breathe and drink. “Given the scope of the tragedy from last week, I am glad to reassure the people of New York and Washington, D.C. that their air is safe to breath and their water is safe to drink,” Whitman stated.
In May 2007, a Congressional investigation examined the EPA’s role in responding to the environmental crisis and air quality emergency following the 9/11 attacks. Whitman initially refused to testify, but ultimately testified before being cleared of any wrongdoing.
For its part, Congress did pass the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which is designed to provide medical services and compensation for first responders; critics have claimed the government is not doing enough to help those who volunteered their livelihood in the wake of the largest terror attack on American soil. Unfortunately, the first responders who risked their lives to save survivors and clean the streets of New York City will continue to suffer in the meantime, and the deaths of these men and women is yet another injustice related to the crimes of September 11, 2001.