Among firefighters without the cough, many were diagnosed with bronchial hyperreactivity, a chronic condition which triggers bronchial spasms in response to ambient air pollutants such as cigarette smoke and automobile exhaust. This condition was observed in 23 percent of those with a high level of smoke exposure, and in 8 percent of those with moderate exposure. "We believe the high alkalinity of the dust was a major contributing factor to the high incidence of bronchial hyperreactivity," said Landrigan.
Among ironworkers involved in clean-up and recovery, many of whom spent several months in and around the disaster site, almost one-third experienced a chronic cough that began shortly after employment at the site, 24 percent reported new onset of phlegm production, and more than 17 percent reported new onset of wheeze. About half of all workers reported at least one new symptom since they had begun working at the site.
Preliminary data from clinical evaluation of residents living within a 1.6-kilometer radius of the WTC site indicate that previously healthy subjects had a greater increase in cough, wheeze and shortness of breath than did residents living a greater distance from the site.
The primary health effect observed in pregnant women who were inside the towers or within 10 blocks of the WTC at the time of the disaster was a two-fold increase in the incidence of small for gestational age infants as compared to pregnant women from a demographically similar population not known to have been in Manhattan at the time.
"We had hypothesized that long-term exposure to air pollutants generated by the collapse of the towers might be associated with an increased risk of small for gestational age births," said Dr. Trudy Berkowitz, an epidemiologist with Mount Sinai. "Based on the results of subsequent studies, we have ruled out the potential role of post traumatic stress disorder in these adverse pregn
Contact: John Peterson
NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences