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Kids exposed to 9/11 dust are now having heart problems

A new study shows that children who were living or going to school near the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 are now at a greater risk of developing heart problems due to dust inhalation from collapse of the Twin Towers.

A report published in the journal Environment International details a study conducted by New York University Langone health researchers, who analyzed blood work from 308 children, 123 of whom were directly exposed to the toxic dust and debris from 9/11.

The study gathered data from the 3,000 children enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Registry (WTCHR) who were either living or going to school in lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001. WTCHR participants go through annual check-ups to help track mental and physical health as the years go on.

Researchers found that the 123 children who inhaled dust from 9/11 were at risk for cardiovascular disease and had increased levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical used in manufacturing plastics that was released in the air as electronics burned in the collapse.  

The higher levels of PFOA indicated an increase in blood fats and artery-hardening fats like LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. According to the study, for every tripled increase of PFOA levels in the blood, there was a nine to fifteen percent increase in fats in the blood.

These raised fat levels can cause heart attacks and stroke if not addressed.

“Since 9/11, we have focused a lot of attention on the psychological and mental fallout from witnessing the tragedy, but only now are the potential physical consequences of being within the disaster zone itself becoming clear,” said Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, an associate professor at NYU School of Medicine and the study’s lead investigator.

Luckily, as the warning signs of cardiovascular disease were caught early by the study and the children in the WTCHR are monitored yearly, the risks can be significantly decreased by exercise and healthy eating.

Both the study and the WTCHR are important implements for monitoring the health of the children exposed to dust and debris from 9/11.

“Our study emphasizes the importance of monitoring the health consequences from 9/11 in children exposed to the dust, and offers hope that early intervention can alleviate some of the dangers to health posed by the disaster,” said Trasande.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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