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Proof of lung woes

Docs detail pain of WTC workers

Tarnisa Moore, who worked at the Trade Center, says every breath hurts.
Toiling deep in the bowels of Ground Zero, Firefighter Kevin Delano suspected he was breathing in poison but continued hunting for bodies anyway.

Now there's more proof the asthma that has made it impossible for the 52-year-old to cross his lawn without wheezing was caused by the deadly dust he inhaled.

A soon-to-be-published study co-authored by David Prezant, the Fire Department's deputy chief medical officer, has found that FDNY rescuers lost the equivalent of 12 years of lung function because of exposure to toxic dust.

"We knew it was bad, we knew it was bad from the first day," said Delano, who had to retire from the FDNY after 9/11 and also has been battling leukemia. "This just proves it."

Prodded by a series of hard-hitting Daily News editorials that described the plight of 12,000 ailing Ground Zero workers, Mayor Bloomberg has promised to look into whether the city has stiffed its 9/11 heroes.

But Bloomberg has refused, thus far, to acknowledge that the deaths of at least four first responders - and the illnesses of thousands more - were directly related to their toiling in The Pit.

The analysis of fire and Emergency Medical Technician workers conducted by the FDNY and Montefiore Medical Center-Albert Einstein College of Medicine could make Bloomberg reconsider his position. It found that firefighters in The Pit suffered a loss of lung power "equal to that of 12 years of age-related decline."

"Those who had more exposure, those who arrived earlier, had a more severe loss," said Montefiore's Dr. Gisela Banauch, also a co-author of the study, parts of which were released in May and all of which will be published next week in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

"We don't know if these rescue persons will recover and continue to lose their function at a normal pace or lose at a faster pace than a normal pace," Banauch added.

Ironworker Joseph Libretti, 48, is one of the many rescuers with scarred lungs. He lost his brother, Firefighter Daniel Libretti, when the north tower collapsed. He then lost his health looking amid the rubble for the remains of his brother and countless others.

"Until the Daily News came with a list of toxins, they went around and told us everything was fine," Libretti said, referring to post-9/11 columns by Juan Gonzalez, one of the first to sound the alarm about toxic air.

"It wasn't just that they lied," Libretti added. "They allowed that lie to fester."

Every breath is now an ordeal for Tarnisa Moore, a 54-year-old grandmother of four who was a supervisor at the Marriott Hotel at the World Trade Center.

"We were dying and the government was talking about not scaring people," said Moore, who suffers from asthma, lung disease and other ailments. "It was a coverup."

Originally published on July 27, 2006

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