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Official cites drug misuse in death, not 9/11 toxins

NEW YORK - The city's medical examiner concluded that the misuse of pills, not the dust of ground zero, caused the lung disease that killed a man who became an example of post-Sept. 11 illness, the examiner's spokeswoman confirmed yesterday.

Chief Medical Examiner Charles Hirsch concluded that James Zadroga, a retired police detective, got the lung disease that killed him by injecting ground-up pills into his bloodstream, leaving traces of the pills in lung tissue, spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said.

"It is our opinion that that material entered his body via the bloodstream and not via the airways," she said.

She confirmed Hirsch's findings after Zadroga's father and lawyer said Hirsch told them Zadroga's death was caused by the misuse of prescription drugs - not the more than 450 hours he spent toiling at the World Trade Center site after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

A New Jersey medical examiner had ruled last year that Zadroga died from inhaling toxic ground zero dust, but the family asked Hirsch for a second opinion - and a ruling that would add Zadroga to the official Sept. 11 victims' list.

Zadroga's family disputes the finding and may contest it legally.

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