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Risk of Heart, Respiratory Disease Up in 9/11 Survivors

MONDAY, July 17, 2017 -- Rescue workers and survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center seem to have an increased risk for heart and lung diseases years later, according to findings published online July 17 in Injury Epidemiology.

Researchers looked at 8,701 people in the WTC Health Registry. This registry monitors the physical and mental health of the more than 71,000 people exposed to the air and debris after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. People in this study were the ones most heavily exposed on 9/11. The group included 7,503 area workers, 249 rescue workers, 131 residents, and 818 passers-by. Forty-one percent in this group had intense exposure to the dust cloud. Ten percent had a single injury, 2 percent had two types of injuries, and 1 percent had three or more injuries, the authors note.

The researchers identified 92 cases of heart disease, 308 cases of asthma, and 297 cases of non-neoplastic lung disease. They also found 327 new cases of diabetes, but said that there were no 9/11 risk factors linked to new cases of diabetes. The number of injuries such as fractures, head injuries, and sprains someone sustained on 9/11 was linked to a higher risk of angina or heart attack. The risk increased with every additional injury type. Dust exposure, posttraumatic stress disorder, being a rescue worker, and current smoking were tied to greater odds of non-neoplastic lung disease other than asthma. Dust exposure on its own was associated with an increased risk of asthma.

"Our findings indicate that intense exposure on a single day -- the first day of the disaster -- contributes substantially to the risk of developing chronic conditions," corresponding author Robert Brackbill, Ph.D., M.P.H., from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said in a journal news release. "Continued monitoring of people who were present in the vicinity of the World Trade Center on [9/11] by medical providers is warranted for the foreseeable future."

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Posted: July 2017