Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Long-lasting sensory loss in World Trade Center workers from airborne toxins after 9/11 attacks

Date:
May 19, 2010
Source:
Monell Chemical Senses Center
Summary:
Workers exposed to the complex mixture of toxic airborne chemicals following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City had a decreased ability to detect odors and irritants two years after the exposure, new research shows.

Ground Zero, New York City.
Credit: iStockphoto

New research from the Monell Center and collaborating institutions reports that workers exposed to the complex mixture of toxic airborne chemicals following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City had a decreased ability to detect odors and irritants two years after the exposure.

"The nose performs many sensory functions that are critical for human health and safety," said lead author Pamela Dalton, PhD, MPH, an environmental psychologist at Monell. "The sensory system that detects irritants is the first line of defense to protect the lungs against airborne toxic chemicals. The loss of the ability of the nose to respond to a strong irritant means that the reflexes that protect the lungs from toxic exposures will not be triggered."

Individuals involved in rescue, recovery, demolition and clean-up at the World Trade Center (WTC) were exposed to a complex mixture of smoke, dust, fumes, and gases. In the study, reported online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, Dalton and collaborators studied 102 individuals who worked or volunteered at the WTC site on 9/11 and during the days and weeks afterward to determine whether this exposure affected their ability to detect odors and irritants.

Forty-four percent of the workers reported being in lower Manhattan on 9/11 and 97 percent worked on the site during the week after the buildings' collapse.

Two years after the exposure, the WTC workers had decreased sensitivity to odors and irritants as compared to similar workers with no WTC exposure. Twenty-two percent of the WTC workers had a diminished ability to detect odors and nearly 75 percent had an impaired ability to detect irritants.

Workers exposed to the dust cloud immediately after the buildings' collapse had the most extreme loss of sensitivity to irritants, with an almost complete inability to detect the nasal irritant used in the study.

Almost none of the individuals tested recognized that their ability to detect odors and irritants was compromised.

Health screenings of WTC workers had documented the effects of inhaled exposure on the lungs and respiratory function, but little was known about the impact on sensory systems of the nose. These sensory systems include the olfactory system, which detects odors, and the somatosensory system, responsible for detecting irritants, chemicals that cause pain, tingling, burning, stinging, or prickling.

The inability to detect irritants and odors is a critical safety concern, especially since the workers were not aware of their impairment.

"Odors also serve a protective function, such as the ability to identify smoke from a fire, leaking gas, or spoiled food," said Dalton.

The authors suggest that the ability to smell and detect irritants should be evaluated regularly in WTC responders and other workers having pollutant exposures.

Future studies will attempt to follow the workers to assess recovery and identify factors associated with more complete recovery.

Also contributing to the study were Michele Gould, Ryan McDermott, Tamika Wilson, Christopher Maute, Mehmet Ozdener, and Kai Zhao from Monell; Richard Opiekun from the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services; Edward Emmett from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; Peter Lees from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health; and Robin Herbert and Jacqueline Moline from Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The study was funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Monell Chemical Senses Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Pamela H. Dalton, Richard E. Opiekun, Michele Gould, Ryan McDermott, Tamika Wilson, Christopher Maute, Mehmet H. Ozdener, Kai Zhao, Edward Emmett, Peter S.J. Lees, Robin Herbert, Jacqueline Moline. Chemosensory Loss: Functional Consequences of the World Trade Center Disaster. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2010; DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1001924

Cite This Page:

Monell Chemical Senses Center. "Long-lasting sensory loss in World Trade Center workers from airborne toxins after 9/11 attacks." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 May 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100518064444.htm>.
Monell Chemical Senses Center. (2010, May 19). Long-lasting sensory loss in World Trade Center workers from airborne toxins after 9/11 attacks. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100518064444.htm
Monell Chemical Senses Center. "Long-lasting sensory loss in World Trade Center workers from airborne toxins after 9/11 attacks." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100518064444.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

'Holy Grail' Of Weight Loss? New Find Could Be It

'Holy Grail' Of Weight Loss? New Find Could Be It

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) In a potential breakthrough for future obesity treatments, scientists have used MRI scans to pinpoint brown fat in a living adult for the first time. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) A new report shows rates of two foodborne infections increased in the U.S. in recent years, while salmonella actually dropped 9 percent. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The breakthrough could mean a cure for some serious diseases and even the possibility of human cloning, but it's all still a way off. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) President Barack Obama gave a briefing Thursday announcing 8 million people have signed up under the Affordable Care Act. He blasted continued Republican efforts to repeal the law. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins