A strong link found between prolonged work at the World Trade Center (WTC) site following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the development of various autoimmune diseases including arthritis and lupus.
The risk of developing an autoimmune disease over the next decade increased by about 13% for each month worked at the site. Investigators estimate that individuals worked 10 months at the site were more than three times as likely to develop an autoimmune disease than those who worked there for one month.
"We believe that this is the first study to demonstrate that prolonged WTC-exposure is an important predictor of post-9/11 systemic autoimmune diseases," said Dr. Mayris Webber, lead author of the Arthritis & Rheumatology study. These autoimmune conditions include rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, dermatomyositis, vasculitis, and Sjogren's syndrome, have been reported after many years of exposure and predominantly among women.
"The terrorist attacks on the WTC buildings and the subsequent building collapses and fires have exposed rescue/recovery workers to aerosolized WTC dust, an amalgam of pulverized cement, glass fibers, silica, asbestos, lead, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, and polychlorinated furans and dioxins," explained Dr.Webber.
These workers have developed various respiratory diseases including asthma, gastroesophageal reflux, and even cancer in up to 70% of the exposed firefighters in New York City (FDNY), but the entire range of potential health effects is not yet known and may take decades to fully manifest.
"It is our hope that increased awareness of this association can lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment," added Dr.Webber