The world watched in shock and mourning when the events of 9/11 were announced on news stations worldwide. Like most people, I will never forget where I was when I first heard the news. I couldn’t take my eyes off the television screen as the newscasters replayed footage. It was surreal. As if the traumatizing events of 9/11 and the significant human losses weren’t enough, first responders and those who survived the tragedy may be at risk for serious illness, according to a new study.
There is the obvious post-traumatic stress disorder for those who survived the events and the resulting nightmares, flashbacks, triggers, difficulty sleeping, feeling easily startled by noise and trouble concentrating. But, the World Trade Center attack on Sept 11, 2001 also exposed thousands of people to significant concentrations of extremely hazardous and toxic materials.
According to research published in the journal Injury Epidemiology thousands of people in the vicinity of the terrorist attack 9/11 are at risk of serious illness due to exposure to physical injuries and the intense dust from the events. This dust exposure has increased their risk of respiratory concerns like asthma, while injury seems to have increased the risk of heart disease.
The study participants were selected from a registry of 71,431 people who were present during or immediately after the 9/11 events. All of the participants selected were free from respiratory conditions, heart disease or diabetes prior to the events. The scientists followed their health for 11 years to determine the long-term effects of injuries or short-term dust cloud exposures linked to the events of 9/11. While diabetes was not linked with the dust cloud exposures, respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses were linked. The higher the dust exposure the stronger the link to breathing disorders.
Few other studies have explored the link between single-event exposures and long-term health risks, making this one significant in its findings. Additionally, few studies have had such a large database of people from which to draw or have been extended for over a decade, making the findings that much more important. The researchers not only found the links but also recommend that clinicians become aware of the potential health threats that can sometimes face the survivors who were exposed toe the World Trade Center attacks. They also recommend ongoing monitoring of 9/11 survivors by medical professionals for the foreseeable future.
While we can’t change the events on Sept 11, 2001 or bring back the many people whose lives were lost, with health monitoring we may be able to improve the quality of life for many of the tragic event’s survivors. Supporting respiratory and cardiovascular health with a healthy plant-rich diet, moderate exercise, increased amounts of fresh air, psychological counseling as necessary and other lifestyle improvements, may make a significant difference to the lifespan and quality of life for survivors. The research may also give us greater insights into how best to support victims of tragedy and the widespread toxic exposures involved with the events.
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Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the publisher of the free e-news World’s Healthiest News, the Cultured Cook, president of PureFood BC, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: Boost Your Brain Power in 60 Seconds: The 4-Week Plan for a Sharper Mind, Better Memory, and Healthier Brain.