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Treating PTSD Improved Respiratory Symptoms in WTC Survivors

Mar 13, 2017

Study Assesses PTSD Treatment and Respiratory Symptoms in WTC-Exposed Individuals

Treating PTSD Improved Respiratory Symptoms in WTC Survivors

On Mar. 9, 2017, the journal Health Psychology published a study evaluating whether posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment programs improved symptoms of respiratory illness in individuals who were exposed to the World Trade Center (WTC) disaster. The authors note that PTSD and respiratory conditions often occur simultaneously in a single patient. Studies have continued to show that exposure to the toxic dust cloud on 9/11 is associated with many serious health conditions.

Parker Waichman LLP is a national personal injury law firm that has fought for the rights of 9/11 responders and survivors since the beginning. The firm continues to advocate for 9/11 heroes.

Researchers note that previous studies have found a relationship between PTSD and lower respiratory symptoms (LRS). Even in non-smokers, PTSD increases the risk of LRS. The authors of the study tested whether treating PTSD symptoms can subsequently reduce LRS in people who were exposed to the WTC-site.

The study involved 90 participants who smoke every day and were WTC-exposed. The participants were an average of 50 years old; the majority were male (72 percent) and white (68 percent). The participants completed 8 group-based classes that focused on "trauma management and smoking cessation treatment that focused on skills to alleviate PTSD symptoms".

Overall, the authors found that treating PTSD symptoms was also associated with an improvement in LRS. "LRS improved significantly with treatment…Reduction in PTSD symptoms uniquely predicted improvement in LRS at consecutive sessions 1 week apart and fully accounted for the treatment effect on LRS," the authors state. Additionally, the study found that the effect of PTSD symptoms was stronger than that of smoking.

The study supports theories suggesting that PTSD is related to LRS symptoms, and managing PTSD can help improve respiratory conditions. "The results are in line with the etiologic pathway suggesting that PTSD symptoms are a risk and maintenance factor for chronic LRS and that treatment of PTSD can help to alleviate LRS in trauma-exposed populations. PTSD is emerging as a novel and important treatment target for chronic respiratory problems," the authors state.

WTC-Exposure Associated with Respiratory Problems, Cancer, Other Health Conditions

WTC-Exposure Associated with Respiratory Problems

When the twin towers collapsed during the terrorist attacks on 9/11, nearby first responders, residents, and other individuals were exposed to a cloud of toxic dust. In the years since the attacks, studies have shown that WTC-exposure is associated with many different health conditions, including airway and digestive disorders, dozens of different cancers, and mental health conditions.

Experts now know that the toxic dust cloud contained many hazardous substances, including asbestos; pulverized cement; polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); benzene; dioxin; glass fibers; gypsum; jet fuel; heavy metals, including lead and other chemicals. Generally, 9/11 responders and rescue workers were the most exposed because they were at the scene and because they continued to work amongst the smoldering debris ("the pile") for months afterwards.

For example, a recent study published on Feb. 8, 2017 analyzed obstructive airways disease (OAD) and the influence on risk of chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The findings, published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health, suggest that being diagnosed with 9/11-related OAD was associated with a higher risk of being diagnosed with CRS and GERD. "Individuals with an OAD diagnosis had elevated risks for subsequent diagnoses of CRS or GERD. Part of the effect of WTC exposure on CRS and GERD diagnoses is mediated by prior diagnoses of OAD; this mediation effect of OAD may reflect biological pathways or healthcare utilization practices," authors concluded.

In January 2017, a study published in the journal Current Allergy and Asthma Reports confirmed that WTC exposure is linked to airway disease. Researchers conducted the review by analyzing data from previous studies. "Since 2011, studies have confirmed relationships between initial World Trade Center exposure intensity, severity of symptoms, airway disease diagnoses, and biomarkers of disease progression. Studies continue to document ongoing morbidity in rescue/recovery workers over 10 years after 9/11," the authors wrote. "Future research should further identify correlates of symptom persistence and new airway disease diagnoses. The unique characteristics of the airway diseases in this population warrant ongoing monitoring and treatment."

The trauma of 9/11 is also associated with mental health conditions, including PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and other conditions. One study published in the journal Alzheimer's and Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment and Disease Monitoring found that WTC-exposure is associated with an increased risk of cognitive impairment.

Research into the effects of WTC-exposure is ongoing, and more conditions may be eligible for coverage in the future. For example, two studies published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that WTC-exposure is associated with nerve problems, including neuropathy and paresthesia. Symptoms of nerve damage include tingling, numbness, burning, skin crawling, or itching.

The Zadroga Act Provides Benefits to 9/11 Responders and Survivors

9/11 responders and survivors can receive medical treatment, monitoring, and compensation through the two Zadroga Act programs: the World Trade Center Health Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). The Zadroga Act was initially signed into law in 2011 and reauthorized in late 2015.

Parker Waichman is proud to have stood alongside 9/11 responders, survivors, lawmakers and other advocates to ensure the passage of the Zadroga Act, its amendments, and its renewal.

The WTC Health Program provides free medical treatment and monitoring and the VCF provides compensation. Certain conditions are eligible for coverage through the Zadroga Act. Reauthorization provided an additional $3.5 billion to fund the WTC Health Program until 2090 and another $4.6 billion to fund the VCF another five years.

Legal Help for 9/11 Responders and Survivors

Parker Waichman is proud to have fought alongside Ground Zero residents, workers, first responders, and other survivors and advocates, to help ensure passage of Zadroga Act amendments. The firm vows to continue its efforts to safeguard all those who were exposed to Ground Zero's toxic cloud and the trauma of the attacks, and ensure that all the deserved Zadroga Act compensation is received. To determine eligibility for compensation under the Act, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).

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