Major health problems for 9/11 rescue workers
As the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 Twin Towers terrorist attack is marked, a new study has shown that a decade on, many of those who worked trying to save people still have substantial mental and physical health problems.
US researchers looked at over 27,000 fire fighters, police officers, construction workers and others who first responded to the attacks and were involved in the recovery of bodies.
They found that nine years after the attacks on September 11, 2001, these workers had a high incidence of a number of conditions, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and asthma. Furthermore, at least one in five had multiple health problems.
According to the findings, at least four in 10 of the workers displayed abnormal lung function tests, indicating that they had some sort of lung injury, at least four in 10 had sinusitis and at least one in four had asthma.
The study also showed that at least one in four rescue and recovery workers showed signs of depression, almost one in three had symptoms of PTSD and one in five had symptoms of panic disorder.
"Several studies have evaluated the health impacts of 9/11, but this is the first long-term study to demonstrate the lasting burden of disease experienced by the brave men and women who responded in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center," the researchers explained.
Not surprisingly, those who arrived on the devastating scene first were exposed to the highest amount of dust and smoke and suffered the worst damage to their health.
The researchers from the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York pointed out that those workers were exposed to ‘a complex mix of toxins and known human carcinogens', including asbestos, benzene from jet fuel, lead and hydrochloric acid.
All of these toxins were released into the air of lower Manhattan when the Twin Towers collapsed. The researchers divided the participants into four groups based on their level of exposure to these toxins. They found that 14% had experienced low exposure, 65% received intermediate exposure, 18% had experienced high exposure, while 3% had suffered very high exposure.
"Our findings underscore the importance of long-term monitoring and treatment of the rescue and recovery worker population," the researchers added.
Details of these findings are published in the journal, The Lancet.
[Posted: Fri 09/09/2011]