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Obstructive sleep apnea and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are unfortunately common illnesses among many first responders that were exposed to high levels of toxic debris and dust particles from Ground Zero. Two separate studies were recently conducted by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai linking both obstructive sleep apnea and PTSD to heart disease risk in 9/11 first responders.

The studies were presented by Cardiologist Mary Ann McLaughlin, MD, MPH of Mount Sinai at the American Heart Association’s EPI/NPAM Scientific Sessions in San Francisco on March 20th. Dr. McLaughlin explained that high exposure to the toxic air particles at Ground Zero puts 9/11 first Responders at risk for developing obstructive sleep apnea and PTSD, in which both may be a precursor for developing heart disease. 9/11 health research studies are done through the WTC-CHEST program, a sub-division of the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) Clinical Center for Excellence, Mount Sinai.

The research was funded by NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) and the CDC (The Center for Disease Control and Prevention).  The study of 800 participants was conducted from January 2011 through September 2013. The dynamics of the study included how long each participant was exposed to 9/11 particulate matter and how close in proximity they were to Ground Zero. The study also showed evidence that inhaling these toxic particles also increased risk of PTSD. Those responders in the study who had PTSD also had biological characteristics that point to increased risk of cardiovascular disease. It was found that those WTC responders with PTSD had substantially higher levels of hsCRP (high sensitivity C-reactive protein), a key indicator of increased cardiovascular disease risk.

Some of the particles that were inhaled included cement dust, smoke, glass fibers and heavy metals. Previous 9/11 health studies conducted has also linked toxic particle exposure to kidney disease among many other serious illnesses such as a multitude of different types of 9/11 related cancers. Although obstructive sleep apnea and *PTSD is included for treatment by the WTCHP, there has been no official rule or announcement by the WTCHP to include heart disease as a covered condition.  Dr. McLaughlin states, “As a result of our new study findings, we plan to further closely monitor our WTC first responders for heart disease warning signs.”  

Should you need more information about the World Trade Center Health Program or need assistance with your 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund claim, please feel free to call, click the chat button or contact us at the top of this page.

*For those who are applying to the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund under the Zadroga Act, PTSD is not included as a covered condition for compensation.

Angela Luongo, a Paralegal with Turley, Hansen and Partners contributed to the writing of this post.