9/11 health issues
Although the official number of people that died in the World Trade Center is quoted as 2,753, the profundity of the attacks cannot be defined simply by mortality; there are also, health consequences which are still present and far reaching.
In the eagerly awaited issue of the medical journal, the editors systematically explore the research on the “short-term and long-term physical, mental, and public health consequences of the terrorist attacks”.
Existing research has hitherto shown both respiratory and post-traumatic stress disorder “are known to be increased in those who survived the World Trade Center disaster” but research reported in the current issue highlight that even after this time rescue and recovery workers “continue to have substantial physical and mental health problems.”
One of the research papers featured in the journal, is that of Dr Juan Wisnivesky et al, from the Mount Sinai school of medicine, who conducted a large cohort study focusing on the persistence of multiple illnesses in rescue and recovery workers at the World Trade centre. Some 50,000 people were involved in rescue and recovery operations following 9/11, many suffering with immediate physical and mental health problems in the immediate aftermath; Dr Wisnivesky gathered data from 27,499 of those involved and examined them over a course of 9 years. The results found that in the group of rescue workers studied there was an increase frequency of the cases of asthma. The study also found an increase risk of depression, post traumatic stress disorders and panic disorders.
In another research paper, Rachel Zeig-Owens discusses the cancer incidence as a result of occupational exposure to known carcinogens in firefighters after 9/11 and found a “modest excess” of such cases, although admitting that this was a relative short time frame to observe such effects.
However, most insightful, are the personal accounts of the health professionals involved in the immediate aftermath; Mechthild Prinz , assistant director in forensic biology enlisted to identify some of the 9/11 victims, taking DNA from bodies that rested in the morgue.
Or, the account of Dr Trosterman, an emergency medicine resident at New York University Medical Center at the time, who recalls dealing with the overabundance of multiple traumas received on that notorious day. Over the course of 85 hours, he slept for merely 3 hours and recounts hearing “countless stories from distressed patients”.
The functions of both Trosterman and Prinz vary, the former attending to the living whilst the latter caring for the deceased; however, a unifying theme emerges, that of reconciling one’s feelings with having to work and focus on the task at hand.
In the forthcoming week, one can expect extensive political analysis of the consequence of 9/11, understandably so, but one must also consider those that died and the health effects of those that survive.Tagged in: 9/11, september 11, world trade center
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