World Trade Center First Responders May Face Greater Heart Risks

According to a new study, World Trade Center attack first responders are more likely to exhibit high-risk features of atherosclerosis than the general public. The same study also found that responders exposed to toxic dust at Ground Zero in the first two days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks are more likely to suffer from impaired cardiac relaxation and coronary calcification, and may have a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.

The new study, which was presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Orlando, Florida, was conducted by researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine who have been studying cardiovascular health in Ground Zero first responders since 2007. According to a report from Bloomberg News, the 31 people involved in the study were relatively young and healthy, with an average age of about 46. The patients in the study are a subset of a 2,500-person group being followed after the attacks.

The study found that those who were most exposed to the toxic dust had worse dysfunction of their blood vessels compared workers who were at the scene after September 13. Nineteen people with high exposure to particulate matter had significantly worse endothelial dysfunction, a condition where the membrane that lines the inside of heart and blood vessels doesn’t work properly, than the later responders, the study found, to a Mount Sinai press release. MRI scans found that those with the most intense exposure showed that cholesterol plaques in their blood also had signs of increased blood vessel growth.

“This study defines physiologic change associated with greater exposure to the dust cloud at the WTC site,” Mary Ann McLaughlinn, the primary investigator for this new study, said in a statement.

“We are currently evaluating other predictors of cardiovascular risk in this population to gain a better understanding of the impact of particulate matter exposure on cardiovascular health.”

This study was conducted through Mount Sinai Medical Center’s WTC Clinical Center of Excellence at Mount Sinai, which treats and monitors emergency responders, recovery workers, residents, and area workers who were affected by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Funding for the center was made possible through the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

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