BACKGROUND: The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC) of September 11, 2001 resulted in the deaths of 2,823 persons. They also generated a long-lasting burden of multiple physical and mental health illnesses among the cohort of 50,000 rescue workers who responded to the attacks and in the 400,000 residents and workers in nearby areas of New York City. A comprehensive health surveillance program was developed from the first months after the accidents and was further developed in the subsequent ears. Individual exposure and health data were stored in ad hoc databases and produced epidemiological outcomes on the various exposure-related illnesses. METHODS: About 10 years of longitudinal assessment of this large cohort of WTC rescue and recovery workers, yielded data from participants in the WTC Screening, Monitoring, and Treatment Program. Police officers, firefighters, construction workers, and municipal workers were included in the cohort. Cumulative and annual incidence were estimated for various physical disorders including asthma, sinusitis, and gastroesophageal reflux disease, mental health disorders including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD], and panic disorder. Respiratory functionality was also assessed. Exposure was characterized with qualitative parameter including working on the pile and being engulfed in the dust cloud, and quantitative parameters including the time of arrival on site and the exposure duration RESULTS: Upper and lower respiratory conditions such as rhinosinusitis and asthma have been found in a significant number of people in WTC-exposed populations. A lack of appropriate respiratory protection may have contributed to these effects. Other commonly observed physical health conditions include gastro-esophageal reflux disease, obstructive sleep apnea and musculo-skeletal injuries. Many WTC-exposed individuals also suffer from mental health conditions, primarily post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, panic disorder, and substantial stress reaction. Recent studies suggest that WTC exposure may increase the risk of cancer and of mortality from cardiac disease. CONCLUSION: Ten years of systematic health surveillance after the 9/11 WTC attacks, show long lasting burden of physical and mental health problems. Continued monitoring and treatment of this population is needed for early diagnoses of initial clinical conditions that can be treated more effectively. The experience of September 11 offers also indications on how to approach the acute and delayed health effects of civilian catastrophes. Critical lessons are derived about the importance of having trained responders - medical and non-medical - in place in advance of disasters, and about the need to proceed with adequate exposure assessment in a timely manner.
|Number of pages
|Giornale Italiano di Medicina del Lavoro ed Ergonomia
|Published - Jul 2012
- Health surveillance
- World trade center