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9/11 Dust Leaves a Medical Legacy

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, September 8, 2011

The study found that 43% of patients had abnormal lung function tests, indicative of lung injury. In addition, 28% of patients had asthma, 42% had sinusitis, and 39% had GERD. The data showed that 48% of rescue workers had asthma, 38% had sinusitis. As many as 43% with GERD also were diagnosed with one mental health condition, according to Mount Sinai.

Of police officers studied, 7% were diagnosed with depression, 9% PTSD, and 8% with panic disorder. About 28% of rescue and recovery workers had symptoms of depression, 32% of PTSD, and 21% of panic disorder.

First responders had the greatest exposure to the dust and smoke, and consequently sustained the most severe health problems. They were exposed to a complex mix of toxins and carcinogens that included benzene from jet fuel, asbestos, dioxin, lead, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, glass fibers, hydrochloric acid, polychlorinated biphenyls. and other caustic chemicals, according to the Mount Sinai researchers. Those were among the materials released into the air with the collapse of the towers.

In another report in the Lancet the 9/11 issue, firefighters who were at the scene were found to have developed a 19% higher risk of cancer as a result to toxic fumes. The firefighters were studied by David Prezant, MD, chief medical officer of the New York City fire department and researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medical Center in New York.

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