It was the worst act of terrorism in our country’s history and the deadliest day ever for first responders. Of the 2,700 people killed in New York City, more than 400 were firefighters, paramedics, and police officers. In the 19 years since, more than 200 first responders have died after a chronic illness. More on what researchers are now looking for as they study the remains of Ground Zero.
These are scenes most of us will never forget. Now, scientists from Ohio State and New York University are examining dust from Ground Zero to learn more about the potential health effects on first responders. Researchers are taking the dust which contains asbestos and heavy metals and aerosolizing it to test the effect on lab rats.
“We expose animals to the dust at specific concentrations which would be similar to what a first responder would’ve been exposed to on the day that the towers collapsed,” explained Loren Wold, PhD, FAHA, Assistant Dean for Biological Research at The Ohio State University.
Then the scientists will examine the animals’ hearts to measure any potential changes from the dust exposure. Wold says many first responders who were in their thirties and forties at the time of the attacks are now having cardiovascular problems.
“What they’re now seeing are these cardiac complications, lung issues, as well as the early onset neurodegenerative issues,” elaborated Wold.
Wold says one month in the life of a rat represents about one human year, giving researchers a potential window into how World Trade Center dust could have impacted people over time.
The research team says they can also use this information in the future to study particulates in the air, after other natural disasters like bridge collapses or earthquakes.