Press Release: New York City, NY, November 28, 2007 — Findings released by the Health Department today provide the first broad snapshot of physical and mental health effects among children exposed to the World Trade Center disaster.
Press Release: New York City, NY, November 28, 2007 — Findings released by the Health Department today provide the first broad snapshot of physical and mental health effects among children exposed to the World Trade Center disaster. The survey found that children under five had an increased likelihood of being diagnosed with asthma in the two to three years following the event, though not as sharp an increase as rescue workers. The survey did not find evidence of elevated levels of post-traumatic stress in children.
Health Department researchers will meet with WTC Health Registry enrollees and other community members tonight at the Second Annual Meeting and Resource Fair at Pace University to present these and other recent findings from the World Trade Center Health Registry initial survey, conducted in 2003 and 2004.
According to the survey, half of the 3,100 children enrolled in the registry developed at least one new or worsened respiratory symptom, such as a cough, between 9/11 and the time of the interview. A follow-up survey now underway will assess whether these symptoms persisted beyond the initial days and months after the event. Prior to 9/11, asthma rates among child enrollees were on par with national and regional rates, but at the time of the interview, about 6% of enrolled children had received a new asthma diagnosis. Children exposed to the dust cloud following the collapse of the towers were twice as likely to be diagnosed with asthma as those not caught in the dust cloud, the survey found.
The post-9/11 asthma rate among children under five years old may be as much as twice the regional (northeastern) rate for the same age group. Further research is needed to learn whether some of this increase is due to better detection of asthma in kids with WTC exposure or because parents of children with asthma symptoms were more likely to enroll their children in the registry.
The mental health portion of the survey showed that only 3% of the children surveyed had symptoms suggestive of post-traumatic stress disorder at the time of the interview, a level that is not above that in children elsewhere. As with asthma, however, children who were caught in the dust cloud experienced higher levels. The survey did not assess other mental health problems.
“We now know that some children, too, were affected by exposure to the dust cloud,” said Lorna Thorpe, Deputy Commissioner at the Health Department. “The Registry is helping us learn more about the health effects of 9/11 and share these findings with the public.”
This survey included children under 18 years of age on 9/11/01, who lived or went to school south of Canal Street (preschool and K-12) or were south of Chambers Street on 9/11.
The Health Department is now working on its second survey of the more than 71,000 enrollees. There are only four weeks left for adult enrollees to submit their responses. About 65% of all enrollees have completed the survey so far. Surveys for child enrollees (which are completed by parents for young children) must be submitted before March 2008. These responses will help determine if enrollees are still experiencing 9/11-related health problems and whether new symptoms or conditions have emerged in any group since 9/11.
“It is critical that enrollees help us continue this important work,” said Dr. Polly Thomas, Associate Professor for the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health at New Jersey Medical School and lead author of the pediatric study. “We urgently need more people to send in their surveys over the next four weeks.”
Other recent findings can be found at the new World Trade Center health website at www.nyc.gov/9-11HealthInfo. Its creation was one key recommendation of the Mayor’s Addressing the Health Impacts of 9/11 report. The comprehensive website offers one-stop shopping for 9/11 health-related issues, including latest information about scientific research and free or low-cost medical services. The website also includes information on treatment options for the different groups of affected people: rescue and recovery workers, residents, children, city employees and others.
About the Registry
The World Trade Center Health Registry, the largest public health registry in U.S. history, was launched in 2003 to track the health of people exposed to the collapse of the World Trade Center and those who worked at the WTC site. The registry is a collaborative effort involving the Health Department, the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), with funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Published by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, November 28, 2007.