“The Queen of Disco,” Donna Summer, died of lung cancer on May 17, 2012. Two days after her passing, a representative for her family, Brian Edwards, told CNN that the singer was not a smoker, and the cancer was not related to smoking. CNN reported that Edwards said the family was issuing the statement in the wake of how “various reports currently surfacing about the cause of Ms. Summer’s death are not accurate.” Edwards said in a statement that “any details regarding the diagnosis and subsequent treatment of Ms. Summer’s case remain between her family and team of doctors.”
Rachel Schwartz, a spokeswoman for the Lung Cancer Foundation of America, told the Los Angeles Times that 60 percent of new lung cancer patients either never smoked or have not smoked for many years. While Summer’s family clarified that she was not a smoker, the British newspaper The Sun offered another explanation, reporting that Summer had been living near Ground Zero when the “deadly cloud containing asbestos, lead and mercury filled the sky” and the singer “is thought to have believed that breathing it triggered her cancer.” Deney Terio, one-time host of the television musical variety series “Dance Fever,” told the celebrity news website TMZ that “when he was around [Summer] post 9/11, she would hang silk sheets in her dressing room to prevent dust from coming in.”
Schwartz also told the Times that it is “not unusual for people with lung cancer to feel ashamed of having the disease,” because it is so closely associated with smoking. “The stigma of the disease is crushing, and any announcement of a lung cancer diagnosis is often accompanied by an assumption that you somehow brought the disease upon yourself,” Schwartz told the Times in an email.
While the family is entitled to keep the details of Summer’s case private, the website mesothelioma.com noted that she would not be the first person to die from toxic exposure near the site of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Paramedic Deborah Reeve was a 17-year veteran who spent eight months at Ground Zero. In 2003, she developed difficulty breathing and her doctors diagnosed her with mesothelioma. She died March 15, 1006, becoming the third Local 2507 member to die of an illness tied to toxic exposures at the 9/11 disaster site, according to the Public Employee Press.
Stanley Iola, LLP – Dallas litigation attorneys