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9/11 Health - News and Events - Medical Examiner Attributes Second Sarcoidosis-Related Death to WTC Collapse

Medical Examiner Attributes Second Sarcoidosis-Related Death to WTC Collapse
January 23, 2009

New York City’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) announced in January that Leon Heyward, an investigator for the Department of Consumer Affairs who was working in Lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001, has been added to the list of those killed in the World Trade Center (WTC) disaster. According to an OCME spokesperson, Heyward died of "lymphoma complicating sarcoidosis." This is the second sarcoidosis-related death attributed to WTC exposure by OCME. The death toll from the collapse of the WTC now stands at 2,752.

Heyward was caught in the immediate dust cloud that resulted from the WTC collapse while helping people evacuate from lower Manhattan on the day of the attacks. He developed systemic sarcoidosis, a rare form of the disease. His treatment included an immune suppresser drug which can sometimes lead to the development of cancer such as lymphoma. It is not clear whether Heyward's lymphoma developed as a result of his treatment.

Sarcoidosis is a multi-system disorder of unknown cause that commonly involves the lungs, skin, eyes, and/or lymph nodes. Symptoms include shortness of breath, cough, and/or wheeze. Diagnosis is generally by biopsy or typical chest X-ray, and treatment, which results in remission for two in three patients, typically includes corticosteroids or other immune suppresser drugs. One in three patients develop progressive disease. Fewer than five percent of sarcoidosis cases are fatal.

Treatment for 9/11-related sarcoidosis is available at New York City’s three WTC Centers of Excellence. The Health Department is currently conducting an in-depth follow-up study of persons with sarcoidosis in the WTC Health Registry. The Health Department also is conducting ongoing studies of all cancers and deaths potentially related to the events of 9/11/01.


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