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September 14, 2011

Health Consequences of the World Trade Center Disaster: A 10th Anniversary Perspective

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: City University of New York School of Public Health, New York, New York (Dr Thorpe); and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York, New York (Dr Friedman).

JAMA. 2011;306(10):1133-1134. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1289

Ten years have passed since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC) towers and Pentagon building on September 11, 2001. The attacks—designed to cause rapid, widespread harm—killed thousands of people and acutely exposed hundreds of thousands to horrific events and potentially harmful environmental conditions. In the aftermath, large efforts were mounted to understand and treat the health effects experienced by survivors and responders, but knowledge was limited regarding ramifications of such an acute environmental disaster. Logistic and methodological challenges complicated efforts to establish and sustain clinical services and disentangle WTC attack–attributable conditions from background patterns. Yet despite setbacks, a consistent body of knowledge has emerged that guides current provision of services and informs future disaster preparedness, and a portfolio of dedicated clinical services now receives stable federal funding. On this 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, we briefly review what is known regarding the health effects of the attacks, outline important questions that remain unanswered, describe current provisions for care for those affected, and discuss lessons learned for future disasters.