Research Continues to Link 9/11 to Serious Health Problems In the years that have passed since the September 11th terrorist attacks, studies have continued to show that people exposed to the toxic dust from the World Trade Center (WTC) have higher rates of serious medical conditions. Generally, rescue and recovery workers who worked on the smoldering remains of the towers, known as “the pile” had the most exposure to these hazardous substances. A January 2017 review published in the journal Current Allergy and Asthma Reports summarized airway disease studies associated with WTC-exposure, and confirmed that exposure is linked to airway disease.
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Researchers conducted the review by focusing on studies published since 2011. These studies analyzed airway disease in WTC rescue and recovery workers. Overall, the literature continues to show that WTC exposure is related to airway disease, and the degree of exposure is linked to severity of symptoms. The prevalence of airway disease among WTC rescue and recovery workers continues to be documented.
“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 write. “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.”
First responders, rescue workers, residents and other individuals were exposed to a toxic plume of dust when the twin towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001. Experts now know that the dust contained hazardous substances such as asbestos; pulverized cement; polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); benzene; dioxin; glass fibers; gypsum; jet fuel; heavy metals, including lead and other chemicals.
WTC toxic dust exposure has been linked to a number of different health conditions, including respiratory diseases and over 60 different types of cancer. 9/11-related illnesses also include mental conditions such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression.
The journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment and Disease Monitoring published a study in August 2016 suggesting that WTC-exposure is associated with higher rates of cognitive impairment, which includes problems with memory and thinking skills. The study was led by author Sean A. Clouston, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Program in Public Health at Stony Brook University, who commented in a press release, “To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the association of PTSD and major depressive disorder (MDD) with cognitive impairment, and to do so in a large group of civilian World Trade Center responders without head trauma,”
The findings were particularly striking because the study participants were young to be showing signs of cognitive impairment. “These numbers are staggering, considering that the average age of responders was 53 during this study,” Dr. Clouston said.
In September 2016, the American Journal of Industrial Medicine published a study showing that nearly half (47.2 percent) of FDNY rescue and recovery workers had either obstructive airway disease, chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS), or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) by 2015. These conditions were rare among this group prior to 9/11. “Most of those who experienced an unprecedented decline in lung function shortly after 9/11 continue to show either lack of recovery or only a partial recovery up to 14 years later,” the authors stated.
Recent studies have also linked WTC exposure to nerve-related issues. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that individuals exposed to 9/11 had higher rates of neuropathy, a type of nerve damage that can cause tingling, pain, numbness or weakness. On Feb. 2, 2017, the journal published another study linking WTC-exposure to neurological issues. Researchers found that individuals exposed to WTC toxic dust had higher rates of paresthesias, a nerve-related condition that causes a burning or prickling sensation. Patients with paresthesia often describe the sensation as tingling, numbness, skin crawling or itching.
Recent research also suggests that WTC-exposure may have impacted pregnant women in the area. The fall 2016 issue of the Journal of Human Resources published a study showing that WTC-exposed women in their first trimester had a higher risk of delivering low-birth weight babies and premature babies.
9/11-Related Illnesses and the Zadroga Act
9/11 responders and survivors suffering from illnesses related to the attacks can receive benefits through the Zadroga Act. The act has two programs: the World Trade Center Health Program, which provides medical treatment and monitoring, and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), which provides compensation. The Zadroga Act was originally signed into law in 2011. The bill was reauthorized at the end of 2015, essentially making medical benefits permanent for 9/11 responders and survivors.
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.
Through Zadroga Act reauthorization, the WTC Health Program will be kept open for an additional 75 years to 2090. Renewal allocated $3.5 billion to find the health program.
Unfortunately, figures suggest that more 9/11-related conditions are emerging as time goes on. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more individuals are enrolling in the WTC Health Program for 9/11-related health problems. For the one-year period ending June 30, 2016, an additional 2,500 people enrolled. Including the new enrollees, a total of 75,000 people across the country receive monitoring and medical treatment related to 9/11.
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).