Mount Sinai researchers recently found evidence that 9/11 first responders who responded to Ground Zero immediately after the attacks had a higher likelihood of developing liver disease than responders who were there later.
Their risk of developing hepatic steatosis – when the liver contains abnormally high levels of fat – as a result of exposure to toxins in the air was significantly higher than the rate among the general population.
Exposure to toxic chemicals often impacts the liver, which plays a key role in detoxifying foreign substances in the body
Published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, the study examined scans from 1,788 World Trade Center responders, finding signs of fatty liver in more than 14 percent of the responders.
The study demonstrates that the World Trade Center Health Program should continue to monitor 9/11 first responders for liver disease – especially people who arrived early, said lead author Dr. Claudia Henschke, M.D., Professor of Diagnostic, Molecular and Interventional Radiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
There are often no clear symptoms of fatty liver disease, although medical imaging or a biopsy could indicate a problem.
If fatty liver disease worsens, it could develop into hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) and even cirrhosis, a potentially fatal condition.
The recommended treatment for fatty liver disease often involves avoiding risk factors for the illness, such as maintaining a healthy body weight, reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption, and increasing physical activity.
Unfortunately, the World Trade Center Health Program and the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) have not yet included fatty liver disease on their lists of “covered conditions” eligible for free health care or a compensation award.
The health program and the VCF are, however, consistently adding new conditions, and additional evidence helps strengthen the correlation between 9/11 exposure and illnesses such as fatty liver disease. This is why it’s so crucial to register with the WTCHP, so that the program has the data it needs to properly assess new illnesses on a regular basis.
If you are a 9/11 first responder, speak with your primary care provider about your risk of developing fatty liver disease, and make certain to access all recommended diagnostic tests.
If you are diagnosed with liver disease or any of the 68 cancers or respiratory illnesses impacting the 9/11 community, please contact us.
Visit 911victims.com or call 212-385-8000 today.