9/11 Dust Elevates Heart Problem Risk in Kids: Fact Check

A new study making the rounds Monday suggests that children who were exposed to dust in the wake of the September 11 attacks and the collapse of the World Trade Center twin tower buildings 16 years ago are at elevated risk for heart problems. So does 9/11 really continue to present a public health threat to these kids?

The group of researchers from the New York University School of Medicine, New York State Department of Health, and other public health institutions analyzed the effects that chemicals like perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs)—known chemical contaminants and carcinogens which are used to make certain materials stain-resistant or waterproof and which floated into homes as part of the massive post-9/11 dust cloud—had on people who lived in the area.

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One collection of study participants was born between September 11, 1993 and September 10, 2001, and were members of the official World Trade Center Health Registry (WTCHR); these people’s health metrics were compared to a control group comprised of New York residents who lived or went to work/school too far from the dust (or who didn’t participate in any rescue and recovery activities) to be eligible for that registry, which aims to track the short- and long-term health effects of September 11. Researchers then controlled for possible confounding factors—so the design of the analyzed groups is pretty sturdy, as far as observational studies go.

The results were striking. Participants who were exposed to the dust (and consequently to far higher levels of PFASs) showed higher levels of triglycerides, total cholesterol, and “bad” LDL cholesterol compared with the control group. In fact, LDL cholesterol levels were more than 11% higher in the WTCHR arm of the study. That could put the affected individuals at a higher risk for heart disease.

“This research adds to our knowledge of the physical health impacts in…

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