When the New York City medical examiner decided last week that Felicia Dunn-Jones' death was directly linked to the dust of the destroyed twin towers, making her the 2,750th victim of the attack on Sept. 11, 2001, Dunn-Jones' husband, Joseph, was relieved.
But while that decision brought some comfort to Jones, who had fought for three years to have his wife's name added to the city's official list of victims, it is likely to have an unsettling effect on thousands of other people who also came into contact with the dust on Sept. 11.
Many people who breathed in the dust were were office workers like Dunn-Jones, a 42-year-old whose office was a block from the trade center. She developed a cough weeks after fleeing the attack and died in February 2002.
Many other people working downtown that morning were also engulfed by the roiling plume of dust. Thousands of schoolchildren and people living in Lower Manhattan also breathed in the dust.
But city officials said that the medical examiner's decision to reclassify Dunn-Jones' death did not alter those people's health outlook.
Even those exposed to the dust need not be too concerned, experts say, especially if signs of respiratory problems have yet to develop.
At a news conference on Thursday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that although the kind of exposure that Dunn-Jones experienced on Sept. 11 was not unique, the circumstances of her case were.
"Think of it as though somebody had gotten -- had a beam fall on them and it just took a little while for them to succumb to their injury," Bloomberg said.
New York City's chief medical examiner, Dr. Charles Hirsch, has attributed Dunn-Jones' death to sarcoidosis -- which produces microscopic lumps called granulomas on the lungs -- and cardiac failure. He determined that exposure to the dust had exacerbated -- though not necessarily caused -- the disease.
Studies have drawn strong connections between exposure to the dust and a range of respiratory ailments, but they suggest that after an initial spike in the number of people reporting illnesses, incidence rates have returned more or less to normal for certain diseases.
For many residents, workers and students in Lower Manhattan, the physical symptoms of dust-related ailments may be secondary to the anxiety produced by hearing about the clinical studies and the deaths of ground zero workers. The reclassification of Dunn-Jones' death is likely to increase that anxiety.