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U.S. Report Sees Wide
Health Effects of 9-11 Attacks
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science
Correspondent, September 8, 2004
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Most of the health
problems reported after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks have involved respiratory difficulties
and mental distress, according to a U.S. government report published on Wednesday.
Firefighters and other emergency workers
showed long-term respiratory problems, including a syndrome called "WTC cough."
A separate study published on Wednesday
also showed subtle but significant effects on pregnant women and their babies.
The hijacked plane attacks that destroyed
the World Trade Center created infernos that enveloped much of New York in a pall of smoke
and dust loaded with toxic chemicals. Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the attacks and a
similar one on the Pentagon (news - web sites) in Washington.
"The primary health effects include
various injuries, respiratory conditions, and mental health effects," the Government
Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said in a report summarizing the
"In the immediate aftermath of the
attack, the primary injuries were inhalation and musculoskeletal injuries," said the
report, published on the Web at www.gao.gov.
"A range of respiratory conditions
have also been reported, including wheezing, shortness of breath, sinusitis, asthma, and a
new syndrome called WTC cough, which consists of persistent cough accompanied by severe
respiratory symptoms," it said.
'Almost all the firefighters who responded
to the attack experienced respiratory effects, and hundreds had to end their firefighting
careers due to WTC-related respiratory illness."
The GAO said six separate registries had
been set up to monitor reports of health problems following the attacks.
"Some long-term health effects, such
as lung cancer, may not appear until several decades after a person has been exposed to a
harmful agent," it said.
"The most commonly reported mental
health effects include symptoms associated with depression, stress, anxiety, and
post-traumatic stress disorder...."
In a separate study in the journal
Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers found that pregnant women who were close to
the twin towers at the time of the attack were more likely to give birth to lighter
The Columbia Center for Children's
Environmental Health surveyed 300 nonsmoking women who delivered babies at three hospitals
in lower Manhattan.
Babies born to the women living within
two-miles of the site weighed on average 149 grams or 5.2 ounces less at birth compared to
infants born to the other pregnant women.
"This study indicates that fetal
growth and length of gestation were significantly reduced as a result of exposure to
pollutants or stress, or both, from the destruction of the World Trade Center, and
shortened gestation means smaller, less mature babies," said Dr. Sally Ann Lederman,
who led the study.
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