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Health Effects and Occupational Exposures Among Office Workers Near the World Trade Center Disaster Site

Trout, Douglas MD, MHS; Nimgade, Ashok MD, MPH; Mueller, Charles MS; Hall, Ronald MS; Earnest, G. Scott PhD

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Abstract

The extent of health effects and exposure to environmental contaminants among workers and residents indirectly affected by the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center (WTC) is unknown. The objective of this study was to evaluate concerns related to health effects and occupational exposures three months after the WTC disaster among a population of employees working in a building close to the disaster site. A cross-sectional questionnaire survey was performed of Federal employees working near the WTC site in New York City (NYC) and a comparison group of Federal employees in Dallas, Texas. An industrial hygiene evaluation of the NYC workplace was conducted. Constitutional and mental health symptoms were reported more frequently among workers in NYC compared to those in Dallas; level of social support was inversely related to prevalence of mental health symptoms. Post-September 11th counseling services were utilized to a greater degree among workers in NYC, while utilization of other types of medical services did not differ significantly between the groups. No occupational exposures to substances at concentrations that would explain the reported constitutional symptoms were found; however, we were unable to assess potential occupational exposures in the time immediately after the WTC disaster. There is no evidence of ongoing hazardous exposure to airborne contaminants among the workers surveyed. Specific causes of reported constitutional health symptoms have not been determined. Health care providers and management and employee groups should be aware of the need to address mental health issues as well as constitutional symptoms among the large number of workers in the NYC area who have been indirectly affected by the WTC disaster.

©2002The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

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