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Predicting Health Impacts of the World Trade Center Disaster: 1. Halogenated hydrocarbons, symptom syndromes, secondary victimization, and the burdens of history

By Rodrick Wallace and Deborah Wallace


The recent attack on the World Trade Center, in addition to direct injury and psychological trauma, has exposed a vast population to dioxins, dibenzofurans, related endocrine disruptors, and a multitude of other physiologically active chemicals arising from the decomposition of the massive quantities of halogenated hydrocarbons and other plastics within the affected buildings. The impacts of these chemical species have been compounded by exposure to asbestos, fiberglass, crushed glass, concrete, plastic, and other irritating dusts. To address the manifold complexities of this incident we combine recent theoretical perspectives on immune, CNS, and sociocultural cognition with empirical studies on survivors of past large toxic fires, other community-scale chemical exposure incidents, and the aftereffects of war. Our analysis suggests the appearance of complex, but distinct and characteristic, spectra of synergistically linked social, psychosocial, psychological and physical symptoms among the 100,000 or so persons most directly affected by the WTC attack. The different 'eigenpatterns' should become increasingly comorbid as a function of exposure. The expected outcome greatly transcends a simple 'Post Traumatic Stress Disorder' model, and may resemble a particularly acute form of Gulf War Syndrome. We explore the role of external social factors in subsequent exacerbation of the syndrome -- secondary victimization -- and study the path-dependent influence of individual and community-level historical patterns of stress. We suggest that workplace and other organizations can act as ameliorating intermediaries. Those without acess to such buffering structures appear to face a particularly bleak future

Topics: Clinical Psychology
Year: 2001
OAI identifier:

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