People who lived in the vicinity of the World Trade Center (WTC) at the time of the attack have reported a variety of health conditions, including acute breathing problems; worsening of asthma; eye, nose and throat irritation; nausea; headaches; and stress related illness and anxiety. Among residents, WTC exposure has posed the greatest health risk to people with pre-existing conditions, children and the elderly.
Individual risk to WTC-related illnesses, like risk of any other illness, depends on the interaction between the environment and the specific characteristics of the individual, including pre-existing diseases, co-morbidities (or being sick with more than one illness at a time), age, sex, genetic make-up and socioeconomic status. The fact that the degree of WTC exposure varies significantly among residents complicates the understanding of this interaction enormously.
Many residents of lower Manhattan were caught in the dust cloud on September 11, 2001, as they fled their homes. People returned at different times and many found their homes damaged or covered in dust (because the dust traveled as far as Brooklyn and New Jersey, residents of these areas also reported the presence of dust in their homes). Some people had their homes professionally cleaned while others cleaned by vacuuming with and without special filters and wet mopping.
Because the WTC attack happened relatively recently, the research findings to date are limited to short- and medium term symptoms experienced by the people who were the most heavily exposed to the collapse of area buildings. Any long-term effects of WTC exposure may not be known for 20 years or longer.