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Study links post-9/11 work to autoimmune diseases

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New York – People who performed prolonged work at the site of the 2001 World Trade Center terrorist attack may have an increased risk for developing autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, according to a study from Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Researchers found that workers’ risk to develop such diseases during the decade following 9/11 increased by 13 percent for every month that they spent at the site. Workers who spent 10 months at the cleanup site were more than 3 times as likely to develop the diseases as workers who stayed for one month.

Researchers said the most common autoimmune diagnoses included:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (37 percent)
  • Spondyloarthritis (22 percent)
  • Inflammatory myositis (14 percent)
  • Systemic lupus ethythematosus (12 percent)
  • Systemic scleroris (5 percent)
  • Sjogren’s syndrome (5 percent)

“We believe that this is the first study to demonstrate that prolonged WTC exposure is an important predictor of post-9/11 systemic autoimmune diseases,” lead author Dr. Mayris Webber said in a press release. “It is our hope that increased awareness of this association can lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment.”

The study was published online March 16 in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology.