World Trade Center (WTC) Responder Fatality Investigation Program

The New York State Department of Health was the data collection center for deaths occurring among WTC responders, recovery workers and volunteers, regardless of how or why the death occurred. This program published a study that was designed to be an early examination of whether these workers were at a higher than normal risk for certain causes of death.

The study was intended to include any individual at the site who died between September 12, 2001 and June 30, 2009. For each death identified, death certificates, medical records, autopsy results, employment information and WTC exposure information was collected. There were 836 deaths identified and the cause of death was confirmed for 814 of these people.

Because no centralized database exists to identify each person present at the WTC site, we have no assurances that all deaths were identified. Although extensive outreach was conducted to find the responders, it appears that at most, only 47% of the deceased workers were identified.

To conduct the study, the number of known deaths were compared to the number of expected deaths in the general population. In addition, the study looked at statistics concerning the relative effect of each cancer type experienced by those in the survey among all cancers. Since we were not able to identify most of the deaths, it is impossible to derive meaningful conclusions from the study results. In short, we do not know what cases are missing from the sample and what they died from.

The study did identify two cancers where cancer rates in the workers were higher than we expected - ovarian cancer and multiple myeloma. The study looked at each case and did not identify a common source of exposure among the workers who died from these cancers. Therefore, for the population of workers that we studied, this study could not draw conclusions about whether these deaths from cancers were related to exposures at the WTC.

We recommend that the currently established WTC medical monitoring programs and the WTC Health Registry match their populations to death certificates on a periodic basis to examine whether there is an increased risk among their cohorts. These studies should conduct specific analyses of those causes of death that were elevated in this project, even if they were not statistically significant to ensure that the data limitations were not masking a true risk.

The study was conducted at the request of and with the support of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

For further information about this project, please contact us at (518) 402-7900 or toll-free in New York State at 1-866-807-2130 or by email at wtcfatality@health.state.ny.us.

Center for Environmental Health
Bureau of Occupational Health and Injury Prevention
Empire State Plaza-Corning Tower, Room 1325
Albany, New York 12237
(518) 402-7900

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