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World Trade Center Rescue Workers May Face Higher Risk of Multiple Myeloma

Aug 11, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

Emergency responders who participated in Ground Zero rescue and recovery efforts following the 9/11 terrorist attacks may be at a higher risk of developing multiple myeloma, according to a new study.  According to a report in the Associated Press, the study points to the importance of continued health monitoring for anyone who worked at Ground Zero following the tragedy.

In the hours and days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, thousands of rescue workers descended on Ground Zero to help with recovery efforts. Sifting through dust and rubble, sometimes with their bare hands, many lacked the clothing and equipment that could have kept them safe from harm. Several studies have confirmed that Ground Zero first responders continue to suffer from ill health as a result of their exposure to toxic dust at the site, including lung diseases and post-traumatic stress disorder. It is also known that the  chemicals they were exposed to  included several carcinogens, some of which have been linked to a heightened risk of multiple myeloma.

This latest study, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, looked at 28,252 emergency responders. According to the Associated Press, out of those, eight cases of multiple myeloma were found.  While that's not out of the ordinary (multiple myeloma is one of the most common hematological cancers in the U.S.), the Associated Press said researchers were surprised at the ages of the victims.

Half of those with multiple myeloma were under the age of 45.  According to the Associated Press, the cancer usually hits an older age group, with the  median age of diagnosis in the general public at 71. Based on this, only one person in the under-45 group would be expected to develop multiple myeloma.

According to the Associated Press, one of those who fell ill was caught in the dust cloud on the day of the tragedy, and then worked at Ground Zero for several months.  A second worked for just over 100 days at thee Staten Island landfill where the rubble was sifted.   The other two multiple myeloma victims worked at Ground Zero for 10 and 12 day durations.

The study authors were quick to point out that their research did not find a direct link between exposure to Ground Zero and the cancer, but said people who worked at the site should continue to have their health monitored.

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