Researchers behind the longest study to date on the apparent health problems suffered by survivors of the 9/11 terror attacks say their work confirms that, even all these years later, people exposed to the resulting dust clouds appeared to be at an increased risk for heart disease and non-cancerous lung diseases.
The study, which was published in Injury Epidemiology in July looked at eleven years of medical data. That’s about double the time period typically studied in previous research. And that’s important, say study authors Howard Alper and Robert Brackbill, because some health problems only become apparent as victims age. (This study specifically excluded people who had been diagnosed with chronic health problems prior to the terror attacks.)
The study, which covered 8701 people, found what its authors characterize as “a strong relationship” between day-of injuries and heart disease. People with multiple injuries, like head injuries or bone fractures, were especially prone, with a sevenfold increase in the risk of heart disease. They also seem to be developing the condition earlier than expected.
Lung disease like asthma also was prevalent, earlier, in people who had what the researchers called “intense exposure” to dust clouds caused by the collapse of buildings.
How Multiple Injuries On 9/11 Might Up Heart Disease Risk
There are a number of theories on why multiple injuries seem to contribute to the risk of heart disease. One idea is that multiple injuries could leave victims more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
Another is that head injuries, especially, are known to contribute to high blood pressure, which is a leading risk factor for heart disease.
Why This Study Matters
The researchers behind this study say that their work provides even more evidence that the terror attacks of September 11, 2011 have caused long-term health issues for survivors, leaving them susceptible to medical problems for years to come. Doctors who treat those patients should be sensitive to these increased risks.