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People who respond to September 11 may have a greater risk of dementia




People who respond to September 11 may have a greater risk of dementia

After helping America through one of its worst tragedies, some responders to the events of September 11 may now face a different enemy: increased risks for Dementia.

A new study looks at the health of thousands of firefighters, construction workers and others who worked on the World Trade Center (WTC) site nearly a year after the attacks. Many were exposed to high levels of toxic dust. The new findings were published in the magazine on June 12 JAMA network opened.

The study found that the most exposed workers were much more likely to develop dementia before the age of 65, compared to people who worked on site but were not exposed to dust and/or wore effective personal protective equipment (PPE).

“This study builds on previous research suggesting that dust and debris from the WTC collapse contain neurotoxins,” said a team led by epidemiologist-researcher Sean Clouston of Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, NY.

“These results imply that these exposures were hazardous and support the view that use of personal protective equipment could have prevented the onset of dementia before age 65 among exposed responders,” Clouston and colleagues wrote.

He is a professor of family, population and preventive medicine at Stony Brook.

As the researchers noted, during the days and months of rescue and cleanup at the WTC site, workers reported “heavy exposure to dust and particles that caused acute stomach and respiratory discomfort and reduced lung function.”

“The dust emitted from the collapse of the Twin Towers consisted of a wide variety of hazardous materials, including pulverized glass, lead, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls and dioxins, and may differ from other sources of air pollution,” they said. explained.

In addition to causing a host of respiratory, cardiac and other health problems, “long-term exposure to inhaled air pollutants, including particulate matter, has been identified as a potential risk factor for the earlier onset of dementia,” the Stony Brook team said.

Could that be true for 9/11 responders and workers?

To find out, they examined the levels of toxin exposure and rates of early-onset dementia (before age 65) among 5,010 people who worked on or near the WTC site.

People were considered responders if they worked “at least four hours during the period September 11 through September 14, 2001, for 24 hours at any other time in September, or during the entire response period from September 11 for at least 80 hours.” 2001 to July 31, 2002.”

Clouston’s group divided the cohort based on estimated levels of toxin exposure.

Workers in the lowest risk category were considered to have no such exposure, or who were protected from exposure by the consistent use of personal protective equipment.

The average age of respondents when the survey was conducted was 53; most (91.3%) were men.

In 2022, 228 cases of dementia before the age of 65 were identified among more than 5,000 employees surveyed.

The likelihood that a former responder suffered from dementia on September 11 increased as the amount of toxic dust he was exposed to increased, the team found.

Compared to the lowest risk group, those in the ‘mild’ exposure group were more than twelve times more likely to be diagnosed with dementia; those in the “high” exposure group were 30 times more at risk; and those with “severe” exposure were more than 42 times more at risk, the study found.

After adjusting for several other risk factors, each increase in exposure levels meant a 42% higher risk of early-onset dementia, compared to workers with the lowest toxin exposure levels.

“This cohort study found an increased risk of dementia associated with working in dusty locations and performing relatively hazardous activities for 15 or more weeks on or next to the rubble pile or pit at Ground Zero,” the Stony Brook team concluded.

They believe there are important lessons to be learned from these findings, namely that consistent use of personal protective equipment can protect workers in similar situations from future illness and premature death.

“There is a critical need to protect individuals assisting in rescue and recovery operations following an unexpected industrial accident,” the researchers said.

“Disasters often require rapid response in hazardous conditions, but reliable use of personal protective equipment can help prevent the onset of dementia before age 65 in individuals exposed to uncontrolled building collapse.”

More information:
Read more about the health effects of the September 11 attacks on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sean AP Clouston et al., Incidence of Dementia Before Age 65 Among World Trade Center Attack Responders, JAMA network opened (2024). DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2024.16504

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Quote: September 11 Respondents May Face Higher Odds of Dementia (2024, June 13), retrieved June 15, 2024 from

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