• 9/11 Dust Cloud Likely Caused Pregnancy Complications
  • September 30, 2014 | Author: Jennifer L. Keel
  • Law Firm: Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine, P.C. - Englewood Office
  • The dust cloud caused by the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center has shown a correlation to birth defects in women who were pregnant and living or working near the site, according to a paper by Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

    "Millions of people were affected by the September 11 terrorist attacks - from physical and mental health problems to financial loss," said Mary Bassett, the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. "This large and diverse population had different exposures after the collapse of the World Trade Center, and health effects have varied as a result."

    Until recently, scientists were unable to prove that the dust cloud had any adverse health effects. However, the recent study showed pregnant mothers near the dust cloud were more likely to give birth prematurely and deliver babies with lower birth weights when compared to other babies born to mothers unaffected by the dust cloud. The likelihood of premature birth doubled for babies near the dust cloud, and boys, in particular, were more likely to have birth complications and premature deliveries.

    "Previous research into the health impacts of in utero exposure to the 9/11 dust cloud on birth outcomes has shown little evidence of consistent effects," said Currie, Henry Putnam Professor of Economics and Public Affairs, director of the Wilson School's Center for Health and Wellbeing. "This is a puzzle given that 9/11 was one of the worst environmental catastrophes to have ever befallen New York City. Our work suggests a simple resolution of this puzzle, which is that the women who lived in neighborhoods exposed to the 9/11 dust cloud had very different experiences than women in other parts of New York City."

    Where a baby is born matters
    A separate study from researchers at the University of Rochester showed where a baby is delivered could make a difference on whether he or she has birth complications.

    After analyzing 750,000 deliveries, researchers were able to determine that certain hospitals - which were not named - have birth complications rates five times higher than other hospitals. Women who had a cesarean birth had lacerations, hemorrhage, clots or infections 21 percent of the time in these hospitals, compared to 4.4 percent in high-performing hospitals. The study also showed that women delivering vaginally were more than twice as likely to see major complications at the low performing hospitals. However, researchers did note that many of these complications were not life-threatening.

    "We understand there are disparities, it's not a surprising finding," Barbara Levy, vice president for health policy at the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, told CommmonHealth. "Any health care service we've looked at, we've seen large disparities - cardiology, joint replacement, appendectomy, or any major service area. Although we pay a huge amount for health care, we're not getting the care we deserve."

    As a result of the findings, study researchers are looking to gather more data from women's electronic medical records to learn more about disparities among hospitals and how to improve the complication rate. If researchers learned that hospitals are more likely to have complications because they perform more cesareans, that might help women in deciding where they would like to give birth.

    At the very least, the study serves as oversight, encouraging hospitals to report on birth complications and improve their delivery methods. Researchers noted that medical advancements have improved complication rates over the past few decades, but more can still be done to study the hospitals that perform well and implement best practices elsewhere.