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Moms question WYC baby
By Elizabeth O'Brien, Downtown
Express, August 18, 2003
Despite research showing a possible link
between trade center toxins and lower baby birth weight, several Downtown mothers who
participated in a recent study said last week that the preliminary results did not appear
to describe them or their babies.
Mount Sinai School of Medicine tracked 182 women who were pregnant and in the vicinity of
the World Trade Center on Sept.11, 2001, or within three weeks thereafter. In results
released last week, researchers found that women who were exposed to dust from the trade
center collapse were twice as likely as a control group to have babies who were slightly
small for their gestational age, or for the amount of time they spent in the womb.
The W.T.C. babies weighed on average just more than two ounces less than those in the
control group. The study found that 8.2 percent of the W.T.C. babies had smaller than
expected birth weight compared with 3.8 percent for the control group. Trade center babies
were no more likely than the control group to weigh less than 5.5 pounds, considered the
threshold for low birth weight. The control group moms all delivered at Mount Sinai
Medical Center on the Upper East Side and were not known to have been in Lower Manhattan
on Sept. 11.
Mothers interviewed for this article who participated in the study said they were
concerned during their pregnancies about how their babies would be affected by their
proximity to the trade center disaster. However, they said their babies were born at a
normal weight and that they appeared to have average growth nearly two years later.
Hes developmentally fine and quite honestly, most of the kids I know from the
playground are fine, too, said Polly Spadavecchia, who gave birth to a seven pound,
10 ounce baby on Nov. 3, 2001. Spadavecchia, 34, lived at Chambers and Reade Sts. at the
time and now lives in Battery Park City.
Mothers who were close to their due dates on 9/11 said that they believed that their
babies were unharmed because they were already fully formed. But Dr. Trudy Berkowitz, a
professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and a lead researcher of the study, said that
fetuses at any stage of gestation could be affected by exposure to pollution. For example,
Berkowitz said, studies have shown that women who stop smoking before their third
trimesters were more likely to have normal weight babies than women who continued smoking
until they delivered.
Participants speculated that mothers stress could have also played a role in the
smaller birth weights of some 9/11 babies. I just think when you were pregnant, and
you lived here, you were under such stress, said Magdalena Hasiec, 30, a Battery
Park City resident who gave birth to an eight pound girl on Sept. 27, 2001.
Berkowitz said that her team did try to measure the stress levels of mothers through
questionnaires and saliva samples. Berkowitz said that she expected to see a connection
between symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and premature birth, but preliminary
findings indicated there was no such link.
But participating mothers wondered if some womens anxiety, while not rising to the
level of post-traumatic stress disorder, nonetheless played a role in their
childrens lower birth weight. Berkowitz said that Mount Sinai researchers had not
yet completed their stress analysis.
Another aspect of the research that has not been completed is the neurological studies of
the babies after they were born, Berkowitz said. Linda Secondari-Black, 38, said that she
took her son Luca, now 22 months, for visual tests at Mount Sinai when he was six months
and nine months old.
Berkowitz said she could not predict exactly when the babies neurological study
results would be published. If any irregularities are found during the data analysis, the
results will be sent to the physician designated by participants on their consent forms,
said Joan Golub, the research coordinator for the study. In keeping with standard protocol
for clinical trials, no individual results will be sent directly to the participants,
Dr. Michel Cohen, a popular Tribeca pediatrician, said that he did not notice low birth
weights for gestational age among the 300 to 400 children under his care who were in utero
on Sept. 11, 2001. Thats why I was very surprised to see that study, because I
dont have that trend in my practice, Cohen said.
Cohen added that he had not read the entire study and would need to do so before he could
comment on it fully.
Susan Curley, who was six months pregnant on 9/11, said that she would have preferred
hearing the Mount Sinai findings from the researchers themselves, instead of from press
accounts. If I had had a low birth-weight baby, I would have freaked out, because no
one told me, said Curley, 41, whose son, Carter, was about nine pounds at birth.
Golub said that Mount Sinai was barred from releasing the study results, even to
participants, until they were published in the Journal of the American Medical
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