9/11 Still Wreaking Havoc on Health
Attack on World Trade Center Causing New Mental and Physical Health Problems, Study Shows
WebMD News Archive
Aug. 4, 2009 -- The terrorist attack that leveled the twin towers of the
World Trade Center nearly eight years ago is still causing new cases of asthma
and posttraumatic stress, a new study says.
The Sept. 11, 2001, attack that killed thousands and exposed hundreds of
thousands to horrific images and potentially dangerous dust is still wreaking
havoc on peoples' mental and physical health, researchers say in the Aug. 5
issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The data come from the World Trade Center Health Registry, which follows
enrollees who reported a range of disaster-associated exposures on 9/11.
Based on survey results, the
that potentially 25,500
directly exposed adults have experienced asthma since the attack and 61,000
have suffered traumatic stress as a result of the attack.
In the registry, 71,000 adults were surveyed in 2003-2004. Adults were
enrolled in the following groups: rescue-recovery workers, lower Manhattan
residents, lower Manhattan office workers, and passersby.
Sixty-eight percent, or 46,000 adults, participated again in a 2006-2007
follow-up survey about symptoms of asthma and signs of
posttraumatic stress. Less than half of the respondents completed the
Some of the study's findings:
- Of the participants with no history of asthma, 10% reported a new asthma
diagnosis during the follow-up survey.
- Intense dust cloud exposure was associated with an increased risk of asthma
for all of the groups. Of those with a new diagnosis of asthma, 19% reported
intense dust exposure vs. about 10% without exposure.
- Risk for asthma was highest among rescue-recovery workers on the debris
pile the day of the attack.
- Residents who did not evacuate reported higher asthma rates than those who
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder After Sept. 11
Asthma wasn't the only the lingering health effect of 9/11. The number of
people with symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder
(PTSD) -- the mental health illness most often
associated with wartime trauma -- also increased five to six years after the
attack. Of participants with no PTSD history, 24% reported PTS symptoms at the
initial evaluation (14%) or during the follow-up (19%).The greatest increase
was in rescue-recovery workers.
- Passersby had the highest levels of symptoms when surveyed during the
second phase of the study at 23%, and residents the lowest at 16%.
- Loss of a spouse related to the attack also was associated with symptoms of
“Our findings confirm that, after a terrorist attack, mental health
conditions can persist if not identified and adequately treated and that a
substantial number of exposed persons may develop late-onset symptoms,” the
“Our study highlights the need for surveillance, outreach, treatment, and
evaluation of efforts for many years following a disaster to prevent and
mitigate health consequences.”