Survivors Exposed to September 11 Toxins as Youth Face Health Risks
Tomorrow (Thursday, September 28), Congressman Dan Goldman will host an online information session about the newly established 9/11 Youth Research Cohort, which aims to track the health of people exposed as children to toxic debris from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The session, which begins at 3pm, is being held to educate young survivors and the broader community about the Youth Research Cohort, “which is something that activists have been fighting for for nearly ten years,” says Kimberly Flynn, the director of 9/11 Environmental Action, a non-profit advocacy group whose mission is to ensure that those who were affected physically or emotionally by the attacks receive appropriate care.
“We now have an authorization from Congress,” she says, “which means the Youth Research Cohort will be funded. To enable researchers to pick up on trends and emerging physical health impacts, the Cohort has to be as diverse as the population of children living or going to school or daycare in Lower Manhattan on September 11, or in the months afterward. The Cohort must include both people who are sick and people who are not sick—everybody, based only on age and presence.”
If the group is sufficiently large and representative, it will serve as the basis for longitudinal research that will give young survivors and the wider community scientifically sound insights into the risks and impacts of their exposure.
“Health impacts to children, the most vulnerable to harm from environmental toxins, constitute the largest and most persistent World Trade Center knowledge gap,” Ms. Flynn notes. “Young survivors and the broader community deserve the kind of answers that come when the health of people who were living or attending school downtown is tracked over time.”
The youngest children in the vicinity of the World Trade Center, newborn infants 22 years ago are now graduating college. Children who were in elementary or high school are today in their 30s. Virtually no data exists about how their health has been affected by their exposure to more than 2,500 contaminants (including asbestos, lead, mercury, dioxins, crystalline silica, cadmium, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, along with pulverized concrete and glass) now known to have filled the air and coated every surface for hundreds of yards in all directions. There is not even a centralized list of names and contact information for such young people.
Since the mid-2010s, Lower Manhattan community leaders have been advocating for the creation of a representative group of people exposed as children. Because this cohort is planned to be 50 percent female, and will be followed longitudinally, it is likely to shed light on the emergence of women’s health problems related to September 11, as well as conditions that are not gender specific. (This data will effectively constitute a bonus, because women, regardless of age, are another critically understudied group among those experiencing health problems related to September 11.)
“In order to succeed, this effort will need ongoing young survivor engagement,” Ms. Flynn says. “The new cohort is a critical and major undertaking that we believe can fill longstanding holes, and in doing so correct research inequities, and potential care inequities that result.”
Tomorrow’s session (which will be held via Zoom) is being hosted by Congressman Goldman and Dr. Joan Reibman, the medical director of the World Trade Center Environmental Health Center, which is part of the federal World Trade Center Health Program. Attendance is free of charge, and no prior registration is required. All interested parties are urged to participate.
Editor’s note: This event was recorded and can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYK7s3fh_lo/.