WTC air doomed ex-cop BY RICH SCHAPIRO DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER Wednesday, April 12th, 2006

An autopsy of a retired NYPD detective confirmed yesterday what his family and fellow cops long suspected - that James Zadroga's death was "directly related" to the Ground Zero cleanup.

The stunning 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.

"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 pathologist at the Ocean County, N.J., medical examiner's office 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."

The autopsy report was released yesterday by Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives' Endowment Association, and Zadroga's grieving father, Joseph.

"There's nothing that we can do for James at this time," said the elder Zadroga, who has been caring for his son's 4-year-old orphaned daughter, Tylerann, since the decorated homicide detective's death.

"But we felt there was something that could have been done for him prior to [James' death] medically, but, unfortunately, no one would step forward and help him."

Zadroga was inside 7 World Trade Center as the building began to collapse on 9/11.

He survived the disaster, and like many other cops and civil servants, was called on to return to the site to help search for victims' remains.
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.

"On Sept. 11, 2001, James Zadroga was a 29-year-old healthy human being," Palladino said.

But after his work at the 9/11 site, the nonsmoker's health "began to deteriorate rapidly," Palladino added.

Zadroga developed respiratory ailments, had difficulty breathing and was found to have fiberglass in his lungs, Palladino said.

The cop retired on a disability on Nov. 1, 2004. The 34-year-old widower died at his parents home in Little Egg Harbor, N.J., just over 14 months later.

In January, the Daily News revealed 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.

Yesterday, Palladino said that nearly 400 NYPD detectives are suffering from symptoms believed to have been brought on by their work at the disaster site.

Some attended yesterday's news conference - including, Detective Robert Williamson, who has pancreatic cancer, and Detective Belinda Shaw, whose illnesses included sinusitis and lung disease, leaving her virtually incapable of speaking.

They are two of many retired cops hoping that an effort to change the NYPD pension system - so officers who die from illnesses found related to the 9/11 cleanup are classified as line-of-duty deaths - is successful.

Because Zadroga's death was not classified as happening "in the line of duty," his family will receive three-quarters of his disability pension for eight years instead of the full pension for up to 19 years.

Zadroga's father said the importance of altering the pension system goes beyond his heroic son.

"It's not for James," Palladino said. "It's for his family, his daughter and these other officers' families."


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