HealthDay News — According to findings published in Injury Epidemiology, rescue workers and survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center seem to have an increased risk for heart and lung diseases years later.

Researchers looked at 8701 people in the WTC Health Registry, which monitors the physical and mental health of the more than 71,000 people exposed to the air and debris after the attacks on September 11, 2001. People in this study were the ones most heavily exposed on 9/11.

The group included 7503 area workers, 249 rescue workers, 131 residents, and 818 passers-by. Forty-one percent in this group had intense exposure to the dust cloud; 10% had a single injury, 2% had 2 types of injuries, and 1% had 3 or more injuries, the authors note.

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The researchers identified 92 cases of heart disease, 308 cases of asthma, and 297 cases of non-neoplastic lung disease. They also found 327 new cases of diabetes, but said that there were no 9/11 risk factors linked to new cases of diabetes.

The number of injuries such as fractures, head injuries, and sprains someone sustained on 9/11 was linked to a higher risk of angina or heart attack. The risk increased with every additional injury type. Dust exposure, post-traumatic stress disorder, being a rescue worker, and current smoking were tied to greater odds of non-neoplastic lung disease other than asthma. Dust exposure on its own was associated with an increased risk of asthma.

“Our findings indicate that intense exposure on a single day — the first day of the disaster — contributes substantially to the risk of developing chronic conditions,” corresponding author Robert Brackbill, PhD, MPH, from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said in a journal news release.

“Continued monitoring of people who were present in the vicinity of the World Trade Center on [9/11] by medical providers is warranted for the foreseeable future.”

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  1. Alper,H, Yu S, Stellman S, and Brackbill R. “Injury, intense dust exposure, and chronic disease among survivors of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.” Inj Epidemiol. 2017;4(1):17. doi: 10.1186/s40621-017-0115-x.