More than 100 children who were exposed to chemical fumes from the 9/11 attacks have a far higher risk of heart disease than they should, a new study says.
After the Twin Towers fell on September 11, 2001, the disaster site was omitting toxic fumes of mercury, asbestos, and jet fuel.
Experts say the fumes lingered until at least July 2002, when the clean-up was declared complete.
Now, an analysis by NYU Langone Health researchers of 308 children in the World Trade Center Health Registry (WTCHR) has shown the devastating impact this had on young people.
The 123 children with higher blood levels of the chemicals known to be in the dust had a 15 percent increase in levels of artery-hardening fats in their blood.
It is the first concrete study to lay bare the long-term cardiovascular health risks in children from toxic chemical exposure on 9/11.
The 9/11 attacks left hundreds of children with an elevated heart disease risk due to fumes
At the time, nobody knew the site would leave more than 500,000 people with a heightened risk of incurable cancers and heart conditions.
In fact, a week after the attacks the EPA assured citizens that the site ‘did not pose a health hazard’.
The agency has since admitted that was wrong – and some say that even today people living in Lower Manhattan are exposed to dangerous fumes.
As of last year, Mount Sinai’s World Trade Center Health Program had counted more than 5,400 people with 9/11-related cancers. And now this study has shown how the fumes impacted the hearts of children.
‘Since 9/11, we have focused a lot of attention on the psychological and mental fallout from witnessing the tragedy, but only now are the potential physical consequences of being within the disaster zone itself becoming clear,’ says study lead investigator and health epidemiologist Dr Leonardo Trasande.
Study children who were more likely to be exposed to the dust, mostly young adults now, were enrolled in the WTCHR.
The registry is helping to track the physical and mental health, through annual check-ups, of nearly 2,900 children who either lived or attended school in Lower Manhattan on 9/11.
Dr Trasande says the long-term danger may stem from exposure to certain perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFASs – chemicals released into the air as electronics and furniture burned in the disaster.
FDNY reveals another 32 firefighters have died of 9/11-related illnesses – as the total number killed on the day or since tops 500
The number of New York firefighters who have died as a result of 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center has topped 500.
On September 11, 2001, 343 members of FDNY died when the twin towers collapsed following the Al Qaeda attacks.
However, in the 16 years since the atrocity, a further 159 of those who served in the aftermath of the attacks have died of illnesses.
According to the New York Daily News, the names of 32 additional firefighters, most of whom died of a 9/11 related cancer over the past year, will be engraved on brass plaques inside the FDNY headquarters at MetroTech, Brooklyn.
These include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), widely used to make plastics more flexible until its health effects, including lower-than-normal birthweights and brain damage, led U.S. manufacturers to stop using it in 2014.
An analysis by Dr Trasande in January 2017 showed that the same 123 children in the WTCHR had significantly higher PFOA blood levels than 185 children who were not living or studying in the city on the day of the attack.
Among the latest study’s results was that roughly every threefold increase in blood PFOA levels was tied to an average 9 percent to 15 percent increase in blood fats, including LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
According to Trasande, raised fat levels in the blood, especially LDL, are known risk factors for heart disease and can if left unchecked lead to blood vessel blockages and heart attack.
Fortunately, he says, these very early signs of cardiovascular risk observed in the WTCHR children can generally be addressed by diet, weight control, and exercise.
‘Our study emphasizes the importance of monitoring the health consequences from 9/11 in children exposed to the dust, and offers hope that early intervention can alleviate some of the dangers to health posed by the disaster,’ says Trasande.
In another study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research in June, a different research team at NYU found raised blood levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in people who reported being exposed to WTC dust on 9/11.
Previous research has linked increases in CRP to inflammation and higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The study involved 641 men and women whose health was being monitored at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue for effects linked to 9/11.
Researchers found that people with raised CRP had a 12 percent greater risk of PTSD than people whose CRP was not elevated.