Burning furniture and electronics are to blame in causing the dangerous, but reversible damage.
New studies have revealed that children who were living or attending school in lower Manhattan during and after 9/11 are showing early signs of risk for heart disease. The cause is thought to be the cloud of toxic debris formed by ash and fumes that circulated when the towers collapsed.
“Since 9/11, we have focused a lot of attention on the psychological and mental fallout from witnessing the tragedy,” said study lead investigator Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, an associate professor at NYU School of Medicine.
“…only now are the potential physical consequences of being within the disaster zone itself becoming clear,” he added.
The participants in the study were children at the time of the disaster, and enrollees in the World Trade Center Health Registry (WTCHR). This is a system that tracks the physical and mental health of nearly 2,900 youth who were near 9/11, through annual check-ups.
What’s causing the risk of developing heart disease? Experts think it’s the fact these kids were exposed to certain perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFASs, chemicals that were released into the air as electronics and furniture burned at Ground Zero. The toxins include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which is commonly used to make plastics more flexible.
The side effects of being exposed to PFOA, such as lower-than-normal birth weights and brain damage, were only discovered rather recently, leading U.S. manufacturers to stop using it in 2014.
Fortunately, the risk factor is controllable Trasande says. These very early signs of cardiovascular risk can generally be addressed by diet, weight control and exercise, he’s stated.
The latest test results from these at-risk children found that every threefold increase in blood PFOA levels was tied to an average 9 percent to 15 percent increase in blood fats, including LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Raised fat levels in the blood, especially LDL, are known risk factors for heart disease. If left unchecked they can lead to blood vessel blockages and heart attack.
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