Unusual Ciliary Abnormalities in Three 9/11 Response Workers

Department of Anatomic Pathology, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.
The Annals of otology, rhinology, and laryngology (Impact Factor: 1.09). 01/2011; 120(1):40-8. DOI: 10.1177/000348941112000106
Source: PubMed


After the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York in 2001, thousands of response workers were exposed to complex mixtures of toxins, pollutants, and carcinogens. Many developed illnesses involving the respiratory tract. We report unusual ultrastructural ciliary abnormalities in 3 response workers that corresponded to their respiratory and ciliary functional abnormalities. Each patient had respiratory cilia biopsies that were evaluated for motility and ultrastructural changes. Impaired ciliary motility was seen in 2 of the 3 patients. Each of the patients showed monomorphic ultrastructural abnormalities. Two of the patients showed identical triangular disarray of axonemal microtubules with peripheral doublets 1,4, and 7 forming the corners of the triangle and doublet 9 always more medially displaced than doublets 2, 3, 5, 6, and 8. Two workers had cilia in which axonemes were replaced by homogeneously dense cores. One of these also had cilia with triangular axonemes as previously described. The other had cilia with a geometric triangular to pentagonal shape. The ciliary abnormalities described here may represent a new class of primary ciliary dyskinesia in which abnormalities may have a genetic basis and a phenotypic expression that is prompted at the cellular level by local environmental conditions.

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    ABSTRACT: The World Trade Center (WTC) twin towers in New York City collapsed on 9/11/2001, converting much of the buildings' huge masses into dense dust clouds of particles that settled on the streets and within buildings throughout Lower Manhattan. About 80-90% of the settled WTC Dust, ranging in particle size from ∼2.5 μm upward, was a highly alkaline mixture of crushed concrete, gypsum, and synthetic vitreous fibers (SVFs) that was readily resuspendable by physical disturbance and low-velocity air currents. High concentrations of coarse and supercoarse WTC Dust were inhaled and deposited in the conductive airways in the head and lungs, and subsequently swallowed, causing both physical and chemical irritation to the respiratory and gastroesophageal epithelia. There were both acute and chronic adverse health effects in rescue/recovery workers; cleanup workers; residents; and office workers, especially in those lacking effective personal respiratory protective equipment. The numerous health effects in these people were not those associated with the monitored PM2.5 toxicants, which were present at low concentrations, that is, asbestos fibers, transition and heavy metals, polyaromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs, and dioxins. Attention was never directed at the very high concentrations of the larger-sized and highly alkaline WTC Dust particles that, in retrospect, contained the more likely causal toxicants. Unfortunately, the initial focus of the air quality monitoring and guidance on exposure prevention programs on low-concentration components was never revised. Public agencies need to be better prepared to provide reliable guidance to the public on more appropriate means of exposure assessment, risk assessment, and preventive measures.
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