WTC Health Registry Tallies Asthma Hospitalizations

Public Health Watchdog Breaking News
Public Health Watchdog Breaking News

The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks affected millions and caused physical and mental health conditions for thousands of people directly or indirectly exposed to the disaster. For over a decade, the federally funded New York City Health Department WTC Health Registry has studied the long-term effects of the attack on area workers, residents, and students and the rescue, recovery and clean-up workers who responded. The Registry’s research allows health care providers and policymakers to respond to health concerns, address gaps in care, and plan for future disaster.

Asthma Hospitalizations

Asthma is a chronic disease of the lungs when the airways become blocked or narrowed leading to breathing difficulties. There are more than 20 million people in the United States that suffer from this condition. Patterns of asthma hospitalization among people exposed to the WTC attacks, and measured whether 9/11-related exposures or comorbidities (the simultaneous or sequential presence of two chronic diseases or conditions in one person), including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and gastroesophageal reflux symptoms (GERS), were linked to an increased rate of hospitalization, reports PubMed.

Ten years after the attack, 15 percent of Registry enrollees had PTSD symptoms. PTSD was more likely to persist or get worse in individuals who were unable to get mental health treatment, had high 9/11-related exposure, were unemployed, or had little social support.

Parker Waichman is a national law firm that has spent many years fighting to ensure that the heroes and survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks are never forgotten. The firm is committed to helping anyone seeking legal information concerning a potential lawsuit.

Collecting Asthma Hospitalization Data

Data for adult people enrolled in the WTC Health Registry, with asthma who resided in New York State on 9/11 were linked to administrative hospitalization data to identify hospitalizations during September 11, 2001 to December 31, 2010. Data was used to analyze associations between 9/11 exposures, comorbid conditions, and asthma hospitalizations.

Of 11,471 enrollees with asthma, there were 721 total hospitalizations. Among enrollees diagnosed before 9/11, those with PTSD or GERS had more than twice the rate of hospitalization compared to those without. Management of these comorbidities may be a significant factor in preventing hospitalization. Sinus symptoms, exposure to the dust cloud, and having worked as a WTC responder were not linked to asthma hospitalization, according to PubMed.

Within six years after 9/11, one in ten Registry enrollees developed asthma – three times the national rate. The risk for asthma was higher for rescue, recovery, and clean-up workers who returned to homes or workplaces covered with a thick layer of dust as well as people who both lived and worked in lower Manhattan after 9/11.

Researchers found that poorly controlled asthma was significantly associated with lower household income, having health care needs that were unmet, and having tested positive for at least one mental health condition. The impact of having at least one mental health condition on the level of asthma control was significantly greater in females than in males.

Lung Function

Lung function is how well a person can move air in and out of the lungs. Firefighters and emergency medical service (EMS) workers suffered sharp declines in lung function within a year of the attack. Ten years after 9/11, these situations were largely the same, even in those who never smoked. Ten years after the World Trade Center (WTC) attack, lower respiratory symptoms (LRS) such as coughing, wheezing, trouble breathing, or using an inhaler continued to affect rescue and recovery workers, area residents, and passers-by. Half of those with persistent LRS also had PTSD, GERS, depression, or generalized anxiety disorder.

Six to seven years after September 11, four times as many firefighters and twice as many EMS workers had below-normal lung function for their ages, as before the attacks. Lung function issues were greater for current smokers than for non-smokers. Respiratory illness and mental health conditions frequently occur together in people exposed to disaster.

Researchers have determined that dust and debris that hovered over lower Manhattan contained a toxic mix of compounds, including asbestos, pulverized cement, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), benzene, dioxin, glass fibers, gypsum, jet fuel, heavy metals (including lead), irritants, toxins, and carcinogens. Over 90 health conditions, including 60 types of cancer, are believed to be a direct result of toxic exposure.

Legal Help for Health Effects Related to Ground Zero

If you or someone you know has been experiencing health issues related to 9/11, you may have valuable legal rights. The personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP offer free, no-obligation case evaluations. We urge you to contact us at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).