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Mental Health Center

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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...

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 attacks.

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.

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 years.

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.

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