New York -- Long after the dust settled in lower Manhattan,
thousands of volunteers, rescue workers, and New York City residents are still
feeling the effects of 9/11 -- not only in their hearts but in their minds and
bodies as well.
While the psychological impact of 9/11 is nearly impossible to
quantify on a nationwide level, health officials in New York and the
surrounding areas are just beginning to understand the scope of physical and
mental effects of the disaster. The "World Trade Center cough,"
respiratory problems, smaller babies, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
are just a few of the issues linked to exposure to the smoke, dust, and toxic
fumes that permeated lower Manhattan for days and weeks after the disaster.
Often thought of as a hippy-dippy practice aimed at transcendence,
meditation is coming into its own as a stress-reduction technique for even the
most type-A kind of people.
In 2005, for instance, severe chest pains sent Michael Mitchell to the
emergency room in fear of a heart attack. It turned out to be gastroesophageal
reflux disease, or GERD. Nevertheless, after checking his heart, the doctor
admitted him and chastised him for not coming in sooner. “That really shook me
up. It was a wake-up...
"We never had an exposure like this," says Paul Lioy,
PhD, of the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute. "It
was an unprecedented collapse of two large buildings turning into dust,
literally, and then residual smoke and a complex mixture we've never seen or
ever dealt with before."
"So in terms of the long-term effects from short-term
exposure, we don't know whether or not they will remain for many, many years or
eventually go away," says Lioy. "We have to monitor it."
To that end, health officials in New York recently announced
the creation of the World Trade Center Health Registry to track and evaluate
the long-term health effects of 9/11.
"The effects of 9/11 are still being felt today by all New
Yorkers, and all Americans," says Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, New York City
Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner, in a news release.
"Hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life
were in the vicinity of the twin towers when they collapsed, and were exposed
to a combination of smoke, dust, and debris," says Frieden. "We need to
study the health of these people in order to understand the possible health
consequences related to 9/11."
Health Effects Linger for Locals and Rescue Workers
The World Trade Center Worker & Volunteer Medical Screening
Program in New York City offers free and confidential medical screening
examinations nationwide for those who helped with post-9/11 rescue, recovery,
and cleanup efforts.
Earlier this year, researchers released preliminary findings
based on a sample of 250 of the program's participants. The results show that
about half of the participants experienced persistent lung, ear, nose, and
throat, and/or mental health symptoms 10 months to a year after the terrorist
Other findings include:
78% of emergency responders reported at least one WTC-related lung symptom
that first developed or worsened as a result of their WTC work.
88% reported at least one WTC-related ear, nose, or throat symptom.
52% of participants reported mental health symptoms that require further
medical evaluation, and one in five reported symptoms consistent with
post-traumatic stress disorder.