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Keywords:

  • World Trade Center;
  • September 11;
  • pregnant women;
  • children;
  • environmental exposures

Abstract

Background: Children are uniquely sensitive to toxic exposures in the environment. This sensitivity reflects children's disproportionately heavy exposures coupled with the biologic vulnerability that is a consequence of their passage through the complex transitions of early development.

Methods and Results: To assess effects on children's health associated with the attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC) of September 11, 2001, research teams at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and other academic health centers in New York City launched a series of clinical and epidemiologic studies. Mount Sinai investigators undertook a prospective analysis of pregnancy outcomes in 182 women who were pregnant on September 11, 2001, and who had been either inside or within 0.5 miles of the WTC at the time of the attacks; they found a doubling in incidence of intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) among infants born to exposed mothers as compared to infants born to unexposed women in northern Manhattan. A Columbia research team examined pregnancy outcomes in 329 women who lived, worked or gave birth in lower Manhattan in the 9 months after September 11; they found that these women gave birth to infants with significantly lower birth weight and shorter length than women living at greater distances from Ground Zero. NYU investigators documented increased numbers of new asthma cases and aggravations of preexisting asthma in children living in lower Manhattan. Mount Sinai mental health researchers documented a significant increase in mental health problems in children who directly witnessed the attacks and subsequent traumatic events; these problems were most severe in children with a past history of psychological trauma. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene established a WTC Registry that has enrolled over 70,000 persons of all ages in lower Manhattan and will follow the health of these populations to document on a continuing basis the health consequences of September 11. Mt Sinai J Med 75:129–134, 2008. © 2008 Mount Sinai School of Medicine