Health Department Announces New Research on Health Effects Of The World Trade Center Disaster

Five research articles describe long-term health impacts of the World Trade Center attacks on rescue/ recovery workers and civilian survivors enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Registry.

September 9, 2016 – As the fifteenth anniversary of the World Trade Center disaster nears, the Health Department announced new findings on the health impacts on rescue and recovery workers and civilians exposed to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The findings from the World Trade Center Health Registry, recently published in a special 9/11 issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine,highlight longer-term physical and mental health impacts.
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Chronic Conditions and Early Retirement or Job Loss

This study focused on the economic impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. We looked at the association between 9/11-related chronic health conditions with or without PTSD and early retirement and job loss. A total of 7,662 non-uniformed rescue/recovery workers, such as volunteers, construction workers, healthcare staff, finance, and environmental services workers were studied. We found that workers with chronic conditions were more likely to experience early retirement and job loss, and the likelihood increased considerably when the worker also had PTSD . Disasters like 9/11 terrorist attacks have a large ripple effect on one’s overall well-being through health, employment, and earnings. Future evaluation of disaster impact should extend beyond the direct and short-term health consequences and include its long-term impact on labor force as wel

 

Asthma and PTSD Impact on Gastroesophageal Reflux Symptoms (GERS)

Increased rates of GERS, asthma, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been frequently reported in those exposed to 9/11. Few studies have explored the interrelationships among these three conditions. Our study found that asthma and PTSD were each independently associated with both the persistence of GERS that was present at the time of 9/11, as well as development of GERS in persons without a prior history. Posttraumatic stress symptoms may also play a role in the association between asthma and late-onset GERS. These findings suggest that integrated physical and mental care could lessen the longer-term health effects of 9/11.

 

Mental Health Status of WTC tower survivors

This is the first long-term study conducted on one of the most highly exposed 9/11 groups: the people who evacuated buildings. We compared the mental health status of persons who were in the World Trade Center towers, other surrounding buildings, or on the street the morning of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Those in the WTC towers were at increased risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and frequent binge drinking 10-years after 9/11. Infrastructure challenges and behavioral challenges experienced during evacuation were significantly associated with PTSD. Infrastructure challenges included the access to stairways and exits. Behavioral challenges included perception of danger, panic, and anxiety. Understanding the effects of challenges to building evacuation on the long-term mental health status of survivors can help in the planning of continuing post-disaster treatment.

 

Cancer Ten Years after 9/11

Since its inception, cancer surveillance has been a priority for the World Trade Center Health Registry. The Registry first examined cancer incidence from 2003 to 2008 in a study that found more cases than expected of prostate cancer, thyroid cancer, and multiple myeloma among rescue/recovery workers enrolled in the Registry, compared to the general New York State population. The article “Ten-year cancer incidence in rescue/recovery workers and civilians exposed to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center” presents findings from a follow up study of cancer incidence.

The study found that for all cancer sites combined from 2007-2011, there were 11 percent more cancer cases than expected among rescue/recovery workers, and 8 percent more among civilian survivors compared with the New York State general population. Prostate and thyroid cancer remained elevated among rescue/recovery workers. There were also small, but higher than expected, incidence of skin melanoma in rescue/recovery workers and non-responder civilian survivors. Among civilian survivors, the study found elevated incidence of female breast cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The findings also provide limited evidence for a causal link between 9/11 exposure and cancer. These findings need to be substantiated by additional follow up studies over time.