9/11 Lingers in Mind and Body
Health and psychological effects of 9/11 are still emerging and far-reaching.
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."
Psychological Effects Near and Far
The screening program in New York has also revealed that about
20% of the workers and volunteers involved in World Trade Center recovery
efforts caused some element of psychological impairment, such as post-traumatic
stress disorder or symptoms related to them such as depression and anxiety.
Trauma researcher Roxone Cohen Silver, PhD, of the University
of California, Irvine, says that in order for a person to be diagnosed with
PTSD they would have to have been directly exposed to the traumatic event. But
that doesn't mean that the psychological effects of a major national trauma are
limited to people who live in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.