Previous research indicates that people working or residing near Ground Zero in 2001-2002 are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The literature also indicates that exposure to air pollution and mental health trauma can increase risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Therefore it is hypothesized that the increased risk of cardiovascular disease among those exposed to the World Trade Center (WTC) disaster is the result of environmental exposure and/or mental health consequences.
Current methods of assessing cardiovascular disease risk are based on populations that have not been exposed to environmental disasters. These methods do not account for the added risk associated with mental health trauma and air pollution exposure. It is therefore likely the current methods of assessing cardiovascular disease risk underestimate the true risk among WTC responders.
The WTC-Heart study is a cohort study of 6,481 WTC responders designed to estimate the risk of cardiovascular disease within this population. Study participants worked or volunteered in rescue, recovery, demolition, debris removal, and related services in the aftermath of the WTC disaster. The study will provide unique evidence of actual cardiovascular disease risk and predicted cardiovascular disease risk in WTC responders in order to guide the implementation of important preventative interventions. In addition to its direct relevance for the health surveillance of WTC responders, this study will accrue new knowledge of the long-term effects of a major environmental disaster on cardiovascular health.