UR Studies Dust, Debris from WTC Explosion

Researchers Looking for Clues to Health Effects of Exposure

July 31, 2002

Scientists collected samples of dust and debris from streets, parked cars, even a child’s high chair near the World Trade Center immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack. Now the samples have been shipped to Rochester for analysis by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

The goal of the study is to investigate the potential short- and long-term health effects for rescue workers and Manhattan residents who were directly exposed to dust and other ultrafine hazardous particles near the WTC site. The National Institutes of Health provided $1.2 million for the project, which involves collaborative work between the UR and New York University.

The samples arrived earlier this month, preserved in tiny vials and on special filters. UR Medical Center lead investigators Jacob Finkelstein, Ph.D., professor, Pediatrics, Environmental Medicine and Radiation Oncology, and Guenter Oberdoerster, Ph.D., professor, Environmental Medicine, will conduct experiments to measure changes in gene expression when lung cells are exposed to fine and ultrafine dust particles. They will also try to determine whether exposure could result in a greater risk of infectious diseases of the lung.

The UR Medical Center is poised to do the detailed toxicology analysis of the dust samples through its Environmental Health Sciences Center. The EHSC is funded with government grants and recognized internationally for its ability to perform sophisticated studies of how environmental toxins impair health.

Another objective of the WTC research is to provide timely public information. Dina Markowitz, Ph.D., director of Community Outreach and Education Programs for the UR Environmental Health Services Center, will collaborate with NYU to produce newsletters for Manhattan residents who attend events related to Sept. 11. The newsletters will highlight ongoing research and any significant public health information.

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Leslie Orr
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