Scientists at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital have recently completed a study examining how pollutants released into the air from the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. They looked specifically into children growing up near lower Manhattan and the long-term health consequences that these toxins may have caused.
It’s been sixteen years since the collapse of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. And as the years go on, there’s a whole new generation of young adults learning about 9/11 from a textbook, rather than from personal experience. However, studies like the one conducted at Mount Sinai Hospital have revealed that young city dwellers may have a stronger connection to the day than previously thought.
Dubbed the “9/11 babies,” scientists and researchers are looking into how infants during the attacks are faring 16 years later. And what they’re finding is quite unsettling — there are high levels of toxins in their blood and teeth, all due to inhaling toxic smoke and polluted air when they were infants. In fact, Newsweek reports that about half of all baby teeth tested showed trades of the neurotoxins lead and tin.
Now while more than 40% of children have dental cavities by the time they enter kindergarten, researchers are saying this is unlike anything they have ever seen. Instead, they believe it is completely due to the exposure to toxic dust from when they were infants and their immune systems weren’t completely developed.
Dr. Manish Arora, an associate professor of dentistry and environmental medicine at the Mount Sinai’s Icahn school, tells Newsweek that it is common to see tin and lead in the teeth of adults over the age of 50, but no study in the world has ever seen these levels in children. He goes to explain that he has studied the impact of chemical exposures in infants living in highly industrial areas of Italy and Mexico, but they don’t compare to the levels in the 9/11 babies.
For the study, researchers looked at donated baby teeth of children both born and unborn during 9/11. Arora tested them using a laser to detect chemical exposure in the dental tissue and was alarmed at the high rates of toxins that have gone unseen until now. He said that while this finding is discouraging, it is good in that these children are able to get the adequate dental care they need to prevent the problem from getting worse.
“It is completely different from what we’ve seen before,” Arora goes on to explain. “This was really something so intensive for these children to be exposed to at the time. It is very important for us to understand the risks so we can provide them with information and recommendations.”
And since 99.7% of all adults believe a healthy smile is socially important, this research can give 9/11 babies the smiles they deserve.
Unfortunately, these toxins don’t stop at teeth.
The New York University School of Medicine tested the blood of 308 children, 123 whom came in direct contact with the toxic dust on 9/11. Researchers found that the children had higher levels of these toxins in their blood, which caused elevated levels of artery-hardening fats in their bodies.
NYU researchers found that for the most part, the toxins are from perfluoroalkyl substances, PFASs, which were released into the air when both electronics and furniture deteriorated in the attack. The PFASs are linked to long-term dangers, such as high cholesterol and heart disease that can lead to life-threatening blockages and heart attacks.
These children are just a few of the thousands of New Yorkers who are suffering from breathing in these toxic fumes. Within the past couple of years alone, more and more first responders and people living in lower Manhattan have been diagnosed with life-threatening conditions including asthma, lung disease, liver failure, and sleep apnea. Doctors have connected more than 70 cancers to the toxic fumes from Ground Zero, and currently, an estimated 400,000 people are currently affected by physical and mental diseases resulting from the towers’ collapse.
And even though there are 5,564 registered hospitals across the country that can help these people fight off their diseases, a good majority of residents don’t know they are at risk.
But doctors and researchers believe there is a silver lining amidst these terrible findings. They believe that since more studies are being done on the 9/11 babies, there is a better chance for prevention of these deadly diseases in the future.
Leonardo Trasande, the lead investigator for NYU’s study on toxins in the blood, explains how this negative can quickly turn into a positive.
“Only now are the potential physical consequences of being within the [9/11] disaster zone itself becoming clear … Our study … offers hope that early intervention can alleviate some of the dangers to health posed by the disaster.”