Study: 9/11 firefighters at higher risk of heart disease

The study found that the risk was 44% greater among firefighters who arrived on the morning of 9/11 compared to those who arrived later


By Sydney Kashiwagi
Staten Island Advance, N.Y.

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Firefighters who responded to the World Trade Center immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks or spent a significant amount of time at Ground Zero afterward run a higher risk of developing heart problems, according to a new study.

The federally funded study released Friday looked at the cardiovascular health of 9,796 firefighters who worked at Ground Zero after the attacks.

The "Tribute in Light" memorial is in remembrance of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, in honor of the citizens who lost their lives in the World Trade Center attacks. (Photo/U.S. Air Force, Denise Gould)
The "Tribute in Light" memorial is in remembrance of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, in honor of the citizens who lost their lives in the World Trade Center attacks. (Photo/U.S. Air Force, Denise Gould)

The study found that repeated exposure during six or more months at the World Trade Center site “appeared to be associated with long-term elevated cardiovascular disease risk.”

The latest study into the long-term health effects on 9/11 first responders comes less than a week before the 18th anniversary of the 2001 attacks.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump signed a bill into law to fully fund and reauthorize a federal compensation fund supporting victims of 9/11 through 2092.

The study noted, however, that cardiovascular disease care is not covered under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, so first responders cannot receive compensation for it.

“As a result, the likelihood of overreporting [cardiovascular disease] for purposes of compensation is small,” the report said.

The study found that the risk was 44% greater among firefighters who arrived on the morning of 9/11 compared to those who arrived later, suggesting that exposure to dust and products of combustion could have triggered chronic inflammation that increases cardiovascular disease risk years later.

“We observed that acute WTC dust exposure, as well as repeated exposures over the months of cleanup, may be associated with elevated [cardiovascular disease] risk throughout 16 years of longitudinal follow-up,” the report said. “The findings appear to reinforce the importance of long-term monitoring of the health of survivors of disasters.”

This week, the FDNY added the names of seven Staten Islanders to its World Trade Center Memorial Wall who died of illnesses related to 9/11 rescue and recovery work.

To date, more than 200 FDNY members -- many of whom were from Staten Island -- have died of 9/11-related illnesses.

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©2019 Staten Island Advance, N.Y.

 

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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