There has been growing concern over the health effects arising from the September 11 attacks in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan. Within seconds of the collapse of the World Trade Center, building materials, electronic equipment, and furniture were pulverized and spread over the area.
In the five months following the attacks, dust from the pulverized buildings continued to fill the air of the World Trade Center site. Increasing numbers of New York residents are reporting symptoms of Ground Zero respiratory illnesses.
Various health programs have arisen to deal with the ongoing health effects of the September 11 attacks. The World Trade Center Health Program, which provides testing and treatment to 9/11 responders and survivors, consolidated many of these after the James Zadroga Act became law in January 2011.
This has led to debilitating illnesses among rescue and recovery workers, and the pulmonary fibrosis death of NYPD member Cesar Borja. Increasing numbers of cases are appearing in which first responders are developing serious respiratory ailments. Health effects also extended to some residents, students, and office workers of Lower Manhattan and nearby Chinatown.
A study published in December 2012 in The Journal of the American Medical Association observed the possible association between exposure to the World Trade Center debris and excess cancer risk. Over 55,000 individuals enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Registry, separated by rescue and/or recovery workers and non-rescue and/or recovery workers, were observed from 2003 or 2004 to December 31, 2008. The findings showed the overall incidence of all cancers among rescue and/or recovery workers was not significantly elevated, compared to non-rescue and/or recovery workers. Despite this, the incidences for prostate cancer, thyroid cancer, and multiple myeloma were significantly elevated among the rescue and/or recovery workers, in the final year of observation.
On November 28, 2006, the Village Voice reported that several dozen recovery personnel have developed cancer – as opposed to having contracted respiratory ailments, and that doctors have argued that some of these cancers developed as a result of the exposure to toxins at the Ground Zero site: "To date, 75 recovery workers at ground zero have been diagnosed with blood cell cancers that a half-dozen top doctors and epidemiologists have confirmed as having been likely caused by that exposure."
A study of 5000 rescue workers published in April 2010 by Dr. David J. Prezant the chief medical officer for the Office of Medical Affairs at the New York City Fire Department found that all the workers studied had impaired lung functions with an average impairment of 10 percent. The study found the impairments presented itself in the first year of after the attack with little or no improvements in the ensuing six years. 30 to 40 percent of workers were reporting persistent symptoms and 1000 of the group studied were on “permanent respiratory disability”. Dr. Prezant noted the medications that are being given ease symptoms but are not a cure. Dr. Byron Thomashow, medical director of the Center for Chest Disease and Respiratory Failure at New York–Presbyterian/Columbia hospital said that "The drop-off in lung function initially is really quite significant and doesn’t get better. That’s not what we’ve generally come to expect in people with fire and smoke exposure. They usually recover."
There is scientific speculation that exposure to various toxic products and the pollutants in the air surrounding the Towers after the WTC collapse may have negative effects on fetal development. Due to this potential hazard, a notable childrens environmental health center (Columbia University Center for Childrens Health) is currently analyzing the children whose mothers were pregnant during the WTC collapse, and were living or working near the World Trade Center towers. The staff of this study assesses the children using psychological testing every year and interviews the mothers every six months. The purpose of the study is to determine whether there is significant difference in development and health progression of children whose mothers were exposed, versus those who were not exposed after the WTC collapse.
Mount Sinai Medical Center is conducting an ongoing monitoring program, World Trade Center Worker and Volunteer Medical Screening Program. A leader of Mt. Sinai monitoring efforts is Stephen M. Levin, Medical Director of the Mount Sinai – Irving J. Selikoff Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine. First responders met in a conference, November 11, 2006 in an effort to monitor responders health. The event was organized by the World Trade Center Monitoring Program.
A 2006 medical study of fire fighters reported that those personnel who inhaled Ground Zero air essentially lost 12 years of lung function.
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