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Study: Smoke, Dust From World Trade Center Collapse Resulted in Smaller Babies - 2003-08-06

A new study shows that air pollution from the September 11, 2001 collapse of New York City's World Trade Center had an impact on pregnant women and their unborn babies.

According to the study, a number of pregnant women who were exposed to smoke and dust from the smoldering wreckage of the World Trade Center attacks had smaller babies than other women who were not nearby.

Dr. Gertrud Berkowitz is the author of the study and a lead researcher at New York's Mount Sinai School for Medicine. For the past two years, she has been investigating the short- and long-term effects the attacks had on pregnant women.

"These women were more likely to have a baby who was small for gestational age - that means small for the length of the pregnancy in comparison to a control group who were not present in lower Manhattan at that time," she explained. "There could be some long-term effects, both in terms of body size, and possibly in terms of mental development."

Initially, U.S. government and New York City health officials said there was no reason to worry about the air quality in the days immediately following the attacks around Ground Zero. However, there are a number of long-term studies underway to monitor the health of those who were exposed to the dust and smoke at the site.

Dr. Berkowitz believes that air pollution was the most likely cause of differences in babies' birth weights.

"There was some underestimate of what the levels of air pollution actually were like, particularly in the first couple of days," she said.

The new study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association followed 182 mothers who were in or near the wreckage while they were pregnant. About 15 of those women who were exposed to toxins found in debris during and after the attacks had babies whose birth weights were less than they should have been.