In more ways than one – The World Trade Center (WTC) collapse on 911 has caused potentially dangerous heart problems in responders on-site.

Researcher Lori Croft says that her study “showed that responders have impaired diastolic function of both the right and left ventricle, meaning their hearts do not relax normally, which can put them at risk for heart problems such as shortness of breath and heart failure. More than 50% had abnormal relaxation of the left ventricle compared to only 7% of people of a similar age in the general population. Greater than 60% had isolated impaired diastolic function in the right ventricle of the heart, which pumps blood to the lungs.”

Dr. Croft and her colleagues suspect that debris inhaled from the WTC site may have contributed to these heart abnormalities. She says, “We know that inhaled debris may be linked to heart and lung disease. While we still have work to do in determining a definitive connection between heart abnormalities and the World Trade Center collapse, these data are an exciting first step.”

In New Scientist, Ewen Callaway quotes researcher Paul Lioy as saying, “We still don’t know what was behind the adverse health effects, such as lung problems, stomach ailments and possibly cancer. Larger, high pH particles of cement, glass and pulverized debris are the likely cause of respiratory problems. But the gases and particles mixed in novel ways, making it hard to pick out ‘smoking guns.'”

Researcher Jacqueline Moline says, “The findings from these analyses underscore the need to have long-term monitoring of potential health effects related to the WTC disaster. They also point to the need to evaluate first responders in general, to ensure that these public safety officers remain healthy and we identify what risk factors might be contributing to any potential health issues.”

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