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Years later, 9/11 dust, fumes cause headaches: study

February 11, 2010

Exposure to dust and fumes caused by the collapse of the World Trade Center during the September 11, 2001 attacks can cause headaches years later, according to a study released Wednesday.

"We knew that headaches were common in people living and working near the World Trade Center on and immediately after 9/11, but this is the first study to look at headaches several years after the event," said study author Sara Crystal of the New York University School of Medicine.

The study involved 765 people who were enrolled in the Bellevue Hospital World Trade Center Environmental Health Center seven years after the building collapse and who did not have headaches prior to the 2001 attacks.

About 55 percent of the participants reported having exposure to the initial World Trade Center dust cloud.

Forty-three percent of those surveyed said they had headaches in the four weeks prior to enrolling in the study, and people caught in the initial dust cloud were slightly more likely to report headaches than those who were not.

People with headaches were also more likely to experience wheezing, breathlessness during exercise, nasal drip or sinus congestion and reflux disease after 9/11.

"More research needs to be done on the possible longer-term effects of exposure to gasses and dust when the World Trade Center fell," Crystal said.

"We also need additional studies to understand the relationship between headaches, other physical symptoms, and mental health issues."

The full study will be released at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting in Toronto in April.

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