9/11 Dust Exposure Increased Risk of Premature Delivery, Smaller Babies A new study has found that exposure to the toxic dust cloud during 9/11 is associated with negative birth outcomes. The findings, published in the fall 2016 issue of the Journal of Human Resources, found that pregnant women exposed to the dust had a higher likelihood of delivering premature babies and babies with low birth weights. Babies with lower birth weights have a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure later in life.
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.
The twin towers released a hazardous mix of chemicals when they fell. Authors of the study, Hannes Schwandt and Janet Currie, believe that the dust cloud probably impacted pregnant women in the area, leading to negative birth outcomes. National Geographic states that “The study adds to a body of research showing that exposure to air pollution in the womb can have adverse health effects on newborns, and those effects can play out over the course of a lifetime.”
Researchers conducted the study by analyzing 1.2 million New York City birth records from 1994 to 2004. The authors focused on women living in Lower Manhattan during the attacks, and therefore had the greatest exposure. The researchers then narrowed their search down to women who have had children previously, to see whether their other children also had low birth weights.
The authors found a two-fold increased risk of premature delivery in women who were in their first trimester during the 9/11 attacks. There was also a higher rate of newborns with low birth weight. “The pregnancy conditions really matter for later economic outcomes and for long-term human development and economic success,” said Schwandt, according to National Geographic. Schwandt, who conducts research on child development, is an economist at the University of Zurich.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is another factor associated with low birth weights, but researchers determined that PTSD did not account for their findings. The authors postulate that the 9/11 toxic dust cloud mainly contributed to low birth weight and premature delivery.
Generally, low birth weights are found among less affluent neighborhoods in the United States. This study, however, was particularly interesting because it showed negative birth outcomes among wealthy areas. “In this case, we have these relatively wealthy mothers who then are affected, and we see that the magnitude of the effect is similar to the difference between an advantaged and a disadvantaged mother,” Schwandt said. “So we could think of it like the advantaged mother that was exposed to the dust cloud in southern Manhattan had a similar birth outcome as a disadvantaged mother who has not been exposed.”
Other studies focusing on the birth effects of 9/11 exposure did not produce similar findings, but this may be because past researchers gathered data from areas where birth weight is already low.
The findings may resonate in areas of the world greatly affected by air pollution, such as New Delhi, Mexico City and Beijing. “That’s the whole reason why this kind of disaster research is useful in a sense, not because this is something that is very representative in general, but because it allows you to identify the effects of pollution,” Schwandt said. “It’s like switch on, switch off.”
9/11 Health Problems and Zadroga Act Benefits
Many studies have shown that exposure to the toxic conditions during 9/11 is associated with serious health problems. The dust cloud contained toxins such as asbestos; pulverized cement; polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); benzene; dioxin; glass fibers; gypsum; jet fuel; heavy metals, including lead and other chemicals. More than 90 health conditions are related to 9/11 exposure, including over 60 types of cancer.
The Zadroga Act, signed into law in 2011, provides benefits and compensation to injured responders and survivors. The Act created the World Trade Center Health program, which provides medical treatment and monitoring, and the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). The Zadroga Act was reauthorized at the end of 2015, effectively making the WTC Health Program permanent. Renewal provides $3.5 billion to fund the WTC Health program for another 75 years to 2090.
Many responders, survivors, and 9/11 advocates, including Parker Waichman, fought for Zadroga Act reauthorization. The firm continues to proudly fight for the rights of 9/11 responders and survivors.
Researchers continue to identify health problems associated with 9/11-exposure. The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine published a study showing that individuals exposed to 9/11 had a higher rate of neuropathy. Symptoms of neuropathy, a type of nerve damage, include tingling, pain, numbness or weakness, especially in the hands and feet. These findings reaffirmed the need for Zadroga benefits, the authors said. “As neuropathy treatment in responders is currently not covered under the WTC program, our findings have strong policy implications and suggest that neuropathy should be added to the list of conditions covered.” they stated.
Many 9/11 responders also suffer from respiratory conditions. A study published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that lung injuries in 9/11 responders tend to be permanent. Researchers gathered data from EMS workers and found that lung function did not usually recover after the attacks.
Figures show that more people are developing health conditions related to 9/11 toxic dust exposure. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 2,500 people newly enrolled into the WTC Health Program during the 1-year period ending June 30, 2016. Including the new enrollees, the program has over 75,000 people nationwide are being treated or monitored for health problems related to 9/11. Most enrollees are rescue and recovery workers, who had the greatest exposure.
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