New Findings On Children Exposed To WTC Disaster

Armen Hareyan's picture

Findingsreleased by the Health Department today provide the first broad snapshot ofphysical and mental health effects among children exposed to the WorldTradeCenter disaster. Thesurvey found that children under five had an increased likelihood of being diagnosedwith asthma in the two to three years following the event, though not as sharpan increase as rescue workers. The survey did not find evidence of elevatedlevels of post-traumatic stress in children.

HealthDepartment researchers will meet with WTC Health Registry enrollees and othercommunity members tonight at the Second Annual Meeting and Resource Fair at PaceUniversityto present these and other recent findings from the World Trade Center HealthRegistry initial survey, conducted in 2003 and 2004.

According to the survey, half of the 3,100 children enrolledin 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 surveynow underway will assess whether these symptoms persisted beyond the initialdays and months after the event. Prior to 9/11, asthma rates among childenrollees were on par with national and regional rates, but at the time of theinterview, about 6% of enrolled children had received a new asthma diagnosis.Children exposed to the dust cloud following the collapse of the towers weretwice as likely to be diagnosed with asthma as those not caught in the dustcloud, the survey found.

The post-9/11 asthma rate among children under five years oldmay be as much as twice the regional (northeastern) rate for the same agegroup. Further research is needed to learn whether some of this increase is dueto better detection of asthma in kids with WTC exposure or because parents ofchildren with asthma symptoms were more likely to enroll their children in theregistry.

The mentalhealth portion of the survey showed that only 3% of the children surveyed hadsymptoms suggestive of post-traumatic stress disorder at the time of theinterview, a level that is not above that in children elsewhere. As withasthma, however, children who were caught in the dust cloud experienced higherlevels. The survey did not assess other mental health problems.


"Wenow know that some children, too, were affected by exposure to the dustcloud," said Lorna Thorpe, Deputy Commissioner at the Health Department. "TheRegistry is helping us learn more about the health effects of 9/11 and sharethese findings with the public."

This surveyincluded children under 18 years of age on 9/11/01, who lived or went to schoolsouth of Canal Street (preschool and K-12) or were south of Chambers Street on9/11.

The HealthDepartment is now working on its second survey of the more than 71,000enrollees.

There areonly four weeks left for adult enrollees to submit their responses. About65% of all enrollees have completed the survey so far. Surveys for childenrollees (which are completed by parents for young children) must be submittedbefore March 2008. These responses will help determine if enrollees are stillexperiencing 9/11-related health problems and whether new symptoms orconditions have emerged in any group since 9/11.

"It is critical that enrollees help us continue thisimportant work," said Dr. Polly Thomas, Associate Professor for theDepartment of Preventive Medicine and Community Health at New Jersey MedicalSchool and lead author of the pediatric study. "We urgently need morepeople to send in their surveys over the next four weeks."