Sixteen years after the collapse of the World Trade Center towers sent a “cloud” of toxic debris across Lower Manhattan, children living nearby who breathed in the ash and fumes are showing early signs of risk for heart disease, a study says.
“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 study lead investigator Leonardo Trasande, Associate Professor at New York University (NYU) School of Medicine.
The researchers analysed blood tests of 308 children, nearly half of whom may have come in direct contact with the dust on 9/11.
Children with higher blood levels of the chemicals known to be in the dust had elevated levels of artery-hardening fats in their blood, showed the findings published online in the journal Environment International.
Long-term danger may stem from exposure to certain perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFASs — chemicals released into the air as electronics and furniture burned in the disaster, Trasande said.
These include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), widely used to make plastics more flexible until its health effects, including lower-than-normal birthweights and brain damage, led US manufacturers to stop using it in 2014.
Children exposed to 9/11 ‘dust’ had significantly higher PFOA blood levels than the children who were not living or studying in the city on the day of the attack.
Among the latest study’s results was that roughly every threefold increase in blood PFOA levels was tied to an average nine per cent to 15 per cent increase in blood fats.
Raised fat levels in the blood, especially Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, are known risk factors for heart disease and can if left unchecked lead to blood vessel blockages and heart attack.
Fortunately, these very early signs of cardiovascular risk can generally be addressed by diet, weight control, and exercise, Trasande said.