9/11 Lingers in Mind and Body
Health and psychological effects of 9/11 are still emerging and far-reaching.
Health Effects Linger for Locals and Rescue Workers continued...
Researchers say the persistence of these symptoms 10 months to
a year after 9/11 is alarming. Although long-term results have not yet been
published, they say the same issues are continuing at similar rates.
"When we looked at patients seen through April 2003, we're
still seeing a significant number of upper respiratory problems -- meaning
nasal congestion, rhinitis, and sinusitis -- and we're seeing a lot of cough
and persistent shortness of breath," says Jacqueline Moline, MD, medical
core director of the screening program.
Another effect of 9/11 researchers will be watching for in the
future will be the impact of asbestos exposure. Long-term exposure to asbestos
is known to increase the risk of cancer, but it can take decades for those
cancers to appear.
Moline says she's hopeful that rescue workers won't experience
an increase in cancer risk due to asbestos exposure. It will depend on the
extent of exposure for each individual, but she says that the risk is certainly
not as great as the risk seen by those who worked with asbestos for many
Even so, the health effects of 9/11 may also linger for
generations to come. A study published earlier this year in The Journal of
the American Medical Association showed that babies born to mothers who
were exposed to the toxic plume of smoke that followed 9/11 were twice as
likely to have suffered growth problems while in the womb.
Debate Still Burning over Exposure Dangers
The extent of exposure to various elements following the
collapse of the World Trade Center and subsequent fires is also a source of
debate among officials and researchers and may play a large part in determining
the actual health effects of 9/11 in the future.
"The air quality issues surrounding the first 24 hours
after the attack were unprecedented," says Lioy. "The only thing that
would come close would be a volcano eruption, but then you wouldn't have glass
literally turning into very small fibers and building materials."
But a report issued last month from the Office of the Inspector
General shows that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may have misled
the public and local officials about the air quality in New York City following
According to the report, the EPA made an announcement Sept. 18,
2001 that the air in the Ground Zero area was "safe" to breathe, but at
that time the agency "did not have sufficient data and analyses to make
such a blanket statement."
At that time, air-monitoring data for several pollutants of
particular health concern was lacking, including information on PCBs
(polychlorinated biphenyls), which have been linked to cancer.
"I find that very frustrating as a physician and someone
who was asked repeatedly if the air quality was safe," says Moline.
"The fact that we may have given people advice based on flawed data, for me
as a doctor, makes me sick.
"At this point, hopefully going forward they will be more
transparent and actually tell people what they were measuring and not make
overreaching statements," Moline tells WebMD. "Hopefully we will have a
lesson learned from this."