The collapse and burning of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11 exposed hundreds of thousands of people to a harmful mix of dust, debris, and jet fuel. The number of children attending school or living in lower Manhattan near the WTC on 9/11 is estimated to be 25,000. Many more were potentially in the path of the dust cloud.
Watch this video to learn more about the impact of the WTC disaster on the respiratory health of young people.
For some children, witnessing the event negatively impacted their behavior as they entered adolescence. They were twice as likely to report underage drinking and three times as likely to have ever used marijuana. Adolescents who feared for their safety on 9/11 were significantly more likely to use tobacco. However, there are ways to help these children. Intervention and education for these adolescents is essential, particularly focusing on substance use and essential coping strategies. These steps will help these young people deal with the emotional toll of 9/11.
Interviews with person injured on 9/11 found that even after the injury has healed, injured disaster survivors continue to have long-term health impacts from their experience. Some injured disaster survivors report having serious physical and mental health problems, economic problems due to loss of livelihood, limited sources of social support. A few survivors reported profound social isolation. Strategies for addressing the long-term health problems of disaster survivors are needed in order to support recovery.
Many of our studies have found that people who were exposed to the 9/11 disaster have lower respiratory symptoms persisting five to six years after 9/11.
We wanted to investigate if Registry enrollees continue to experience the same symptoms ten or more years later.
These symptoms include:
Persistent Cough Wheezing Shortness of Breath
Watch Dr. Stephen Friedman discuss our latest findings on this subject.
Airborne lung irritants at the World Trade Center site have been associated with new onset asthma among Ground Zero workers and community members. However, less is known about asthma associated with work at the Staten Island landfill or barges used to transport debris from the World Trade Center site to the landfill.
We conducted a survey of landfill and barge workers regarding their specific exposures.
Jobs involving sifting, digging, welding, and steel cutting, police or sanitation work, and enrollees with probable posttraumatic stress disorder all had increased odds rations for new-onset asthma.
Watch Dr. James Cone discuss our findings and recommendations.
Asthma and PTSD early after 9/11 were each associated with the persistence and late-onset of GERS. The combination of either condition with GERS was associated with substantial decrements in quality of life.
Successful treatment of asthma and PTSD may decrease the risk of GERS. Our findings emphasize the importance of providing coordinated health care for physical and psychological symptoms related to 9/11.
We discovered that over fifteen percent of those surveyed reported having PTSD, nearly fifteen percent experienced depression, and ten percent described suffering from both conditions.
As compared to individuals with either condition alone, those with PTSD and depression were more likely to report increased 9/11 exposures, and experienced poorer outcomes on measures of employment, social support, quality of life, and unmet health care need.
We analyzed survey responses from over 36,000 members of the Registry to understand the impact 9/11 had on diabetes among those suffering from 9/11-related posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. We focused on respondents who reported having diabetes for the first time after joining the Registry. Lower Manhattan residents, passers-by and rescue/recovery workers were included in the study.
Enrollees who had PTSD at the time they joined the Registry in 2003-2004 were 30 percent more likely to develop diabetes 6 to 8 years later than people without PTSD. This was true after controlling for factors such as age and body mass index.
One explanation for our findings is that chronic stress reactions caused by posttraumatic stress disorder can, over time, cause the body’s cells to become resistant to insulin, causing sugar to build up in the bloodstream. Another is that PTSD has been associated with unhealthy behaviors, including poor diet and physical inactivity, both of which may increase the risk of developing diabetes.
We looked at the survey responses from about 41,000 Registry enrollees, to examine the relationship between PTSD, extent of exposure to the 9/11 disaster, and frequent binge drinking, which was defined as having five or more drinks on a single occasion on five or more days of the past month.
Of the 41,000 enrollees in this study, about one in five is currently suffering from PTSD. Roughly eight percent of enrollees in the study reported frequent binge drinking in the past month, which is slightly higher than what has been reported in NYC and national studies. The average number of binge drinking days in the last month was eleven.
Frequent binge drinking was reported by fifteen percent of those suffering from PTSD, and only six percent of those without PTSD. People with higher levels of exposure to the 9/11 disaster were more likely to report frequent binge drinking than people with lower exposures. We now have a better understanding of the impact of PTSD and different levels of 9/11 exposure on how often people engage in binge drinking.
Researchers linked data for 46,346 Registry enrollees living in New York State to a state hospital-discharge reporting system that records medical diagnoses. They found 1,151 heart disease (including hardening of the arteries and heart attack) and 284 stroke-related hospitalizations occurring in 2003-2010. Male rescue/recovery workers with high levels of WTC exposure were at 82% higher risk for heart disease hospitalization compared to those with low levels of exposure; women who had PTSD symptoms when they enrolled in the Registry faced a 32% higher risk compared to women without PTSD symptoms. Men with PTSD at enrollment were at a 53% higher risk of hospitalization due to stroke compared with men without PTSD.
Two earlier Registry studies based on self-reported cardiovascular disease diagnoses suggested a similar association. The Registry’s first mortality analysis also found an increase in heart-disease related mortality among lower Manhattan residents, area workers and passers-by with higher levels of WTC exposure.