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New Study Shows Effects of 9/11 on Babies — Why Didn’t We Know Sooner?

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There’s no denying that September 11 changed everything for all of us.

As I sat in my high-school chemistry class and watched the second plane crash, I don’t think I fully grasped the enormity of the situation — or how far the impact of those towers would spread. That fateful day changed how we work, how we live, how we fly, how we discriminate, and, as new research has found, how the babies of New York City were born.

According to the study, a million tons of toxic dust spread from the toppling of the towers, an event the authors dubbed an “unparalleled environmental disaster.”

The “dust,” if you can call it that, spread through lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, and miles beyond and consisted of hundreds of contaminants that spread through the air, through remnants, and in the particles themselves. Some of the top offenders in the deadly dust included:

  • Asbestos
  • PCB’s
  • PAH’s
  • Man-made fibers
  • Dioxins
  • Volatile organic compounds
  • Crystalline silica
  • Highly alkaline concrete dust
  • Glass shards
  • Lead, mercury, and other heavy metals

The toxic mix was shown to have caused asthma and cancer in the emergency workers who worked on Ground Zero, but researchers were surprised to find that at first glance, pregnant women, nor their babies, did not seem to be affected by the dangerous dust cloud. However, when researchers took a second look at the data, they discovered negative outcomes surrounding women who were pregnant on 9/11 in terms of birth weight, prematurity, and number of NICU admissions.

Specifically, the study showed that the toxic dust led to an increased number of NICU admissions, increased number of premature births, and lower birth rates for babies born of mothers who lived in the area. And across the board, baby boys had more problems as a result of the dust than baby girls.

Shockingly, even pregnant women who were still in their first trimesters on 9/11 had a more-than-doubled risk of a preterm delivery. With so much delicate development occurring in the first trimester, one can’t help but wonder what else the toxins caused during the formation of the 9/11 babies.

So why did it take us so long to realize the danger that 9/11 posed to pregnant women and their babies? Apparently, researchers missed the link because they had focused on women solely in lower Manhattan. However, because many of the pregnant women in lower Manhattan were at less risk for pregnancy complications to start out with — many were affluent women under good care — they didn’t show as many poor outcomes as a result of the dust cloud.

Women in other areas, however, such as Battery Park City, SoHo, TriBeCa, Civic Center, Little Italy, Chinatown, and the Lower East Side, who may have had pre-existing pregnancy complications and less prenatal care, etc., had more adverse reactions to the dust cloud.

We may never know the true impact of how 9/11 affected the generation yet to be born on that fateful day, but we do know how it affected all of our hearts.

 

Image via Chaunie Brusie

 

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