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Registry Created to Track 9/11 Health Effects

Researchers are hoping that a registry of more than 50,000 individuals living or working near the World Trade Center on and after Sept. 11, 2001, will help them track health effects caused by exposure to substances from the destruction of the twin towers.

The World Trade Center Health Registry is recruiting individuals who worked or lived in lower Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001, and workers involved in the rescue, recovery and cleanup any time between the attack and June 30, 2002. They are to be followed for 20 years and compared with the general population.

Besides providing two decades' worth of data for future research, the registry should help alert patients and their physicians about potential diseases and conditions associated with the catastrophe, said Pauline Thomas, M.D., of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which is overseeing the registry in collaboration with the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Registry participants are asked to complete a 30-minute telephone survey regarding exposures and health problems. Researchers will focus on respiratory and mental health, as well as cancer rates.

Robert Morris, MD, Ph.D., of Tufts University in Boston, said the effectiveness of the registry could be limited by large variations in exposure levels among participants and the self-selecting, nonrandomized nature of participants who may not be representative of all those exposed. Although the registry should be able to uncover trends in diseases where diagnosis is clear cut, such as cancer, it will probably be less useful in determining real levels of concern for conditions such as multiple-chemical sensitivity.

"You can see where in a few years we'll be talking about 'Trade Tower syndrome, 'a group of symptoms associated with having been there," Morris said. "With such a varied cohort and a wide range of exposure levels, it may be hard to link any specific outcome to a specific exposure."

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