Children who inhaled toxic dust, fumes during 9/11 attack at heart disease risk

Long-term danger may stem from exposure to certain perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – chemicals released into the air as electronics and furniture burned in the disaster, researchers said.

Children who inhaled toxic dust, fumes during 9/11 attack at heart disease risk

New Delhi: September 11, 2001 is a day that still sends a chill down the spine – one of the worst terror attacks the world has seen – when terrorists rammed two airplanes straight into the twin towers in the US.

Within an hour and 42 minutes, both 110-story towers collapsed, with debris and the resulting fires causing partial or complete collapse of all other buildings in the World Trade Center complex, including the 47-story 7 World Trade Center tower, as well as significant damage to ten other large surrounding structures.

Thousands of people lost their lives and those who survived are still suffering as a result of the cloud of toxic debris they were exposed to and fumes that were inhaled.

A study has now shown that children who were exposed to the toxic debris during the attack, show early signs of risk for future heart disease.

Researchers from New York University (NYU) in the US analysed blood tests of 308 children, 123 of whom may have come in direct contact with the dust on 9/11.

They found that children with higher blood levels of the chemicals known to be in the dust had elevated levels of artery-hardening fats in their blood.

Children who were more likely to be exposed to the dust, mostly young adults now, were enrollees in the World Trade Center Health Registry (WTCHR), which is helping to track the physical and mental health, through annual check-ups, of nearly 2,900 children who either lived or attended school in Lower Manhattan on 9/11.

Long-term danger may stem from exposure to certain perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – chemicals released into the air as electronics and furniture burned in the disaster, researchers 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, they said.

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, said Leonardo Trasande an associate professor at NYU.

The study was published in the journal Environment International online.

(With PTI inputs)

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