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Study Finds Kidney Damage in 9/11 First Responders

Update Date: Nov 09, 2013 10:50 AM EST

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared air pollution a carcinogen. Air pollution is full of different particles and gases and frequent exposure to it can harm people's health. In the first study of its kind, researchers found that particulate matter that some 9/11 first responders inhaled might have contributed to the development of kidney damage.

For this study, researchers from the WTC-CHEST Program, which is a part of the World Trade Center Health Program Clinical Center for Excellence at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai looked into the particulate matter that first responders were exposed to at ground zero. The research team had identified cement dust, smoke, glass fibers and heavy metals and reported in previous findings that exposure to these particles negatively affected people's lungs and heart.

The team analyzed the urine sample from 183 first responders who were exposed to the particulate matter. The researchers took into account when the responders' arrival time, proximity, duration and level of exposure. From the urine samples, the team was able to measure levels of albumin, which is a blood protein that indicates signs of kidney damage. The researchers found that responders with higher levels of exposure had higher levels of albumin.

"Our study shows the first responders with the highest exposure to the 9/11 particulate matter had significantly greater levels of albumin in their urine than the first responders in the study with low exposure levels," said Mary Ann McLaughlin, MD, principal investigator for the WTC-CHEST Program. She is the medical director of the Cardiac Health Program and co-director of the Women's Cardiac Assessment and Risk Evaluation Program at The Mount Sinai Hospital. "We believe high exposure to the massive dust cloud of air pollution at Ground Zero may have extremely inflamed the endothelial lining of blood vessels leading to the kidneys causing kidney malfunction and the development of kidney damage in first responders."

The findings were presented at the 2013 American Society of Nephrology meeting. The study was funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

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