Home Damage After 9/11 Linked with Respiratory Illness

Released: 14-May-2012 1:00 PM EDT
Embargo expired: 22-May-2012 11:30 AM EDT
Source Newsroom: American Thoracic Society (ATS)
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Citations American Thoracic Society International Conference

Thematic Poster Session: Wednesday, May 23, 8:15 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Poster Viewing: 10:45 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Location: Area D (Hall D, North Building, Lower Level), Moscone Center

PRESS CONFERENCE: Tuesday, May 22, 11:30 a.m.

Home Damage Following 9/11 Attacks Linked with Higher Levels of Respiratory Illness

Newswise — ATS 2012, SAN FRANCISCO – Residents of Lower Manhattan who suffered home damage following the September 11 terrorist attacks are more likely to report respiratory symptoms and diseases than area residents whose homes were not damaged, concludes a study conducted by researchers in Atlanta and New York City. The researchers based their study on data collected in the World Trade Center Health Registry (WTCHR), a cohort study of more than 71,000 rescue/recovery workers and survivors of the World Trade Center attacks.

The study results will be presented at the ATS 2012 International Conference in San Francisco.

Thousands of Lower Manhattan residents sustained some type of damage to their homes following the 9/11 collapse of the twin towers. Although previous studies found an increased level of asthma reported by residents who experienced a heavy layer of dust in their homes following the attacks, this is the first study to use WTCHR data to evaluate the specific effects of home damage, including broken windows and damage to furnishings, on other respiratory diseases and symptoms in addition to asthma.

“This preliminary analysis demonstrates that Lower Manhattan residents who suffered home damage following the 9/11 attacks are more likely to report respiratory symptoms and diseases in the Registry,” said study author Vinicius Antao, MD, MSc, PhD, registries team leader at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). “These health outcomes persisted for at least 5-6 years after the event. Thus, they may have translated into elevated medical expenditures and lower quality of life.”

The researchers used data from 6,463 area residents who participated in both the Registry’s Wave 1 survey conducted two to three years after 9/11 and the Wave 2 survey, conducted five to six years after 9/11.

The researchers specifically looked at respiratory symptoms, including shortness of breath, wheezing and persistent cough, which first occurred or became worse after the September 11 attacks and which were present during the Wave 2 time period. They also looked for respiratory diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which were first diagnosed after the attacks and which were present during the Wave 2 survey period.

The researchers found that 60.8 percent of survey respondents reported new onset or worsening upper respiratory symptoms five to six years after 9/11. In addition, 16.1 percent of respondents reported shortness of breath, 10.7 percent reported wheezing and 6.9 percent reported chronic cough. Eight percent of survey respondents had been diagnosed with asthma, and 5.4 percent had been diagnosed with COPD.

After controlling for gender, age, education level, smoking status, and exposure to the dust and debris cloud, Dr. Antao and his colleagues found that Lower Manhattan residents who had reported a heavy coating of dust on their homes were, on average, 50 percent more likely to report a respiratory symptom or disease.

“This study highlights the magnitude of the 9/11 attacks by showing that people exposed to dust in their homes continued to have respiratory problems even five to six years after the fact,” Dr. Antao said.

Dr. Antao and the researchers are interested in examining next the influence of distance from Ground Zero on the types and frequency of adverse respiratory outcomes reported after 9/11.

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“Respiratory Health Outcomes And Home Conditions Of Lower Manhattan Residents Enrolled In The World Trade Center Health Registry” (Session D61, Wednesday, May 23, 8:15 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Area D, Moscone Center; Abstract 26794)

* Please note that numbers in this release may differ slightly from those in the abstract. Many of these investigations are ongoing; the release represents the most up-to-date data available at press time.

Abstract 26794
Respiratory Health Outcomes And Home Conditions Of Lower Manhattan Residents Enrolled In The World Trade Center Health Registry
Type: Scientific Abstract
Category: 06.04 - Epidemiology (EOH)
Authors: V. Antao1, L..L. Pallos1, Y. Shim1, J. Sapp II1, R. Brackbill2, J. Cone2, S. Stellman3, M. Farfel2; 1Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry - Atlanta, GA/US, 2New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene - Long Island City, NY/US, 3Columbia University - New York, NY/US

Abstract Body
Introduction: The World Trade Center Health Registry (WTCHR) is a cohort study of over 71,000 survivors of the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center attacks. Thousands of Lower Manhattan residents sustained some type of damage to their homes following the 9/11 collapse of the Twin Towers, and increased asthma was previously reported among Registry enrollees who experienced a heavy layer of dust in their homes. In this report we further evaluate the impact of home damage on respiratory symptoms and diseases.

Methods: Data was derived from both WTCHR Wave 1 (W1) (9/2003–11//2004) and Wave 2 (W2) (11/2006–12/2007) surveys. Outcomes of interest were respiratory symptoms (shortness of breath, wheezing, persistent chronic cough, upper respiratory symptoms) first occurring or worsening after 9/11 and present at W2 and respiratory diseases (asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD]) first diagnosed after 9/11 and present at W2. We performed descriptive statistics and multivariate logistic regression analyses, controlling for sex, age on 9/11, education, smoking status, and exposure to the cloud of dust/debris that was generated by the collapse of the WTC towers.

Results: A total of 6,463 residents were included in this study. Mean age at 9/11 was 45.1 years (±15.1 years), 2,659 (41.7%) were male, 2,916 (45.4%) had ever smoked cigarettes, and 2,691 (41.6%) reported some or intense dust cloud exposure on 9/11. Prevalence of respiratory outcomes was as follows: shortness of breath (16.1 %), wheezing (10.7%), chronic cough (6.9%), upper respiratory symptoms (60.8%), asthma (8.0%), and COPD (5.4%). The table shows odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals for respiratory outcomes in relation to several characteristics of home damage (statistically significant results in bold).

Conclusions: This preliminary analysis demonstrates that Lower Manhattan residents who suffered home damage following the 9/11 attacks are more likely to report respiratory symptoms and diseases in the WTCHR. It also highlights the kinds of damage or other specific exposure events which are statistically related to such increased symptoms and diseases. These health outcomes persisted for at least 5-6 years after the event, which may have translated into elevated medical expenditures and lower quality of life.

Funded by: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry


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