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NYS Responders Report 9/11-Related Health Problems, Study Says

Despite arriving later and having less-intense exposure than first responders, New York state personnel who worked at the World Trade Center (WTC) site after the 9/11 attacks have increased rates of physical and mental health symptoms, reports a study in the November issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Led by Dr. Matthew P. Mauer of the New York State Department of Health, the researchers evaluated health effects in 1,423 state workers who responded to the WTC disaster. The majority of these workers were from the New York State Police, National Guard, or Department of Transportation.

As a group, the state workers had less-intense exposure to conditions at Ground Zero than reported in previous studies of first responders, such as New York City police or firefighters. Still, two-thirds were working at the WTC site during the last two weeks of September 2001. In addition, 110 of the state workers were in the vicinity of the WTC before the attacks and were caught in the cloud of dust when the towers collapsed.

When evaluated in 2002-2003, the state workers had elevated rates of physical and mental health symptoms. Nearly half had respiratory symptoms. The most common symptom, reported by 30 percent of workers, was a dry cough.

Nearly one-third of the state workers had experienced new or worsening psychological symptoms since working at the WTC site. Symptoms most commonly included sleep problems, fatigue and irritability. Just three percent of affected workers received treatment for these symptoms.

Both types of symptoms were more common among workers who were caught in the cloud of dust. This included specific psychological symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), such as feeling jumpy/easily startled, experiencing flashbacks and having difficulty concentrating or remembering things.

Previous studies have reported various health effects in WTC first responders and community residents. The health evaluations among New York state workers provide an opportunity to evaluate the effects of later exposure to conditions at the disaster site.

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