A medical examiner has found that the cause of death was not inhalation of Ground Zero dust (Zadroga had spent 470 hours at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the collapse), but rather because he was injecting painkillers.
"It is our opinion that that material entered his body via the bloodstream and not via the airways," Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for Chief Medical Examiner Charles Hirsch, told The Associated Press.Noted pathologist and former NYC Chief Medical Examiner Michael Baden disputes the findings, noting that the pathology reports did not mention any needle marks and that tissue slides from Zadroga's lungs showed particulate matter close to the airways. A New Jersey medical examiner had previously found that Zadroga had died from inhaling toxic dust at Ground Zero.
Borakove said ground-up painkillers that Zadroga was injecting caused his lung disease, noting that traces of the pills were found in his lung tissue.
Zadroga died in January 2006 of scardiosis, a lung-scarring disease.
Hirsch released his determination that Zadroga's death was not related to 9/11 a week ago.
But at the time, he would only publicly confirm that Zadroga's death was not the result of exposure to toxic dust, a finding that he said he believed "with certainty beyond doubt."
The cop's father yesterday adamantly rejected the ME's finding.
James Zadroga Sr. said his son was taking more than a dozen medications to cope with his illnesses when he died, including anti-anxiety medicine and painkillers such as OxyContin. But he insisted his son never ground up pills and injected them.
What a mess.
All we know is that Mr. Zadroga is dead and no one appears to know with certainty what killed him. This is a situation that is sure to be repeated over and over as others who worked at Ground Zero come down with ailments that may or may not be connected to their service there.
It also points to the problems with those individuals who make various health claims with 100% certainty in relation to 9/11 and Ground Zero exposure. The only thing we can be certain of is that we don't know all that there is to know about the medical effects.