This month was the 13th anniversary of the haunting September 11 event that has changed us, our Nation, and the world we thought we knew. It seems like yesterday that these events happened.
Three years ago, I posted my frustration of my inability to get First Responders, and/or their health practitioners, to consider addressing the issue of immune homeostasis, immune balance, to enhance the quality of life of individuals that had put themselves at risk to save others.
Exposure to Air-Borne Particles
The World Trade Center Health Registry estimates about 410,000 people were exposed to air-borne particles and toxins attempting to rescue survivors and recover the dead, clearing the site, or cleaning the surrounding buildings.
Despite the fact that early in the World Trade Center (WTC)’ construction, builders abandoned asbestos as a fireproofing material, over 400 tons of asbestos were used in the building of the World Trade Center (WTC). Additionally ”mineral wool”, minerals that were melted and spun into fibers and bound together by cement like components was used in construction.
Massive amounts of hazardous fiber, asbestos, glass, gypsum, and cement were pulverized into ultra-fine particles when the Towers imploded and collapsed on September 11. Virtually every surface was covered with a fine, white particulate dust, and downwind from the complex, the fine particulate matter settled to a depth of 3 inches or more.
Affected groups of Responders include firefighters, police, health professionals, clean-up crews, construction workers, truck drivers, transit workers, lower Manhattan residents, and office workers.
Increase Risk of Cancer
Responders were exposed to hundreds, if not thousands, of toxic particulates, dust, and gases at Ground Zero. As many of these are known to be potential carcinogens, it is not surprising that two years ago, 58 different types of cancers were added to a list of diseases with which many World Trade Center responders suffer.
Overall, First Responders at Ground Zero have a 15% increased cancer risk with a 239% higher risk for thyroid cancers. However, unfortunately, asbestos-related lung cancers such as malignant mesothelioma may not appear for 20-40 more years.
Signature Illness: PSTD and Respiratory Illness
If having a significant increase in cancer risk was not enough, according to the findings of the Stony Brook [NY] Medicine’s World Trade Center Health Program, as many as 60% of 9/11 World Trade Center responders continue to experience “clinically significant symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and … respiratory illness”.
Coughing and breathing problems have been a major issue, even in Responders that were only “moderately” exposed. Additionally individuals with the most exposure were more likely to find that their asthma symptoms became worse.
Benjamin Luft, MD, Medical Director of the Stony Brook Program is of the opinion that “a signature illness” of a WTC Responder is having both PTSD and respiratory problems at the same time.
Respiratory Difficulties and Inflammation
Inflammatory biomarkers have been monitored in those exposed to WTC dust and smoke. Elevated levels soon after exposure were associated with increased risk of difficulty breathing in the years that followed.
PTSD and Inflammatory Responses
A few months ago I stated “Clinical studies suggest that individuals with post-traumatic stress disorders suffer from chronic low-level inflammation. This is reflected in their greater propensity to have inflammation-associated diseases such as autoimmune, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, and respiratory diseases.”
“…individuals with PTSD are more likely to have significantly higher amounts of circulating CRP [an inflammatory marker] than those not diagnosed with PTSD.”
The Combination of PTSD and Respiratory Issues
To repeat from my previous post,“The immune system mounts an immune, inflammatory response when the body is exposed to pathogens, pollutants, or toxins. The inflammatory cells release immune factors, such as cytokines, cellular messages, that are involved in cell-to-cell communication with the “purpose” of recruiting more inflammatory cells into an area to help eliminate a perceived threat.”
“Pollutants and chemicals … trigger airway inflammation and increase mucous production. Other immune molecules cause narrowing of airways resulting in the contraction of the muscles lining the airways. The combination of inflammation and increased mucous makes it difficult for air to enter or leave the lungs and can result in breathing issues.”
“Additionally, lungs that do not function properly, are ideal for the multiplication of molds, bacteria, and viruses. The lungs continue their struggle to eliminate pollutants and pathogens, resulting in a chronic, persistent, dry cough and worsened lung function.”
A Plea to Readers
I am convinced that immune inflammatory imbalances contribute in large portion to the reason that that First Responders experience so many health challenges.
It is my heart-felt hope and expectation that helping individuals return to immune homeostasis, immune balance, may be the key to changing their quality of life. Despite numerous attempts and avenues, I have been unable to make reliable contact with decision makers or Responders. I hope that you will forward my note to individuals that are still suffering the consequences of serving others.
I can be reached at: DrHellen@DrHellenGreenblatt.info or at 302.265.3870. Thank you.