Prenatal World Trade Center Chemical Exposures, Birth Outcomes & Cardiometabolic Risks
In a research study co-led by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, the Wadsworth Center at the New York State Department of Health, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, faculty in the Division of Environmental Pediatrics at NYU Langone assess the prenatal effects of chemical exposures related to the World Trade Center disaster.
We leverage two unique and contemporaneous cohorts to examine chemical and psychosocial stressors in relationship to proximity to the World Trade Center site and to self-reported exposures, and evaluate birth, neurodevelopment, and cardiometabolic outcomes. The first cohort is comprised of mothers and children born in one of three lower Manhattan hospitals in the months after the disaster. The second cohort is comprised of children born at the northern Manhattan–based Columbia Children’s Environmental Health Center. The latter cohort includes children born just before and after September 11, 2001, permitting nested evaluations of stress-related exposures.
Except for cardiometabolic outcomes, the data are already available, including new measurements of persistent organic pollutants, which we will extend to include perfluorinated chemicals with funding from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. In both cohorts, neurodevelopmental outcomes have been assessed through six or seven years of age. Taking advantage of temporal and geographic differences in these cohorts, we will compare both psychosocial and chemical exposures and their association with outcomes among children who were and were not prenatally exposed to the World Trade Center disaster.
Our study leverages previously measured biomarkers and prospectively collected data on psychosocial stress. In addition, we will be the first to examine physical health of adolescents exposed in utero to the World Trade Center disaster. Although other studies have examined noninvasive measurements of central and peripheral arterial stiffness, ours is one of the first to examine chemical exposures in relation to these endpoints in adolescence. Preclinical measures included in the proposed project may be more sensitive cardiovascular endpoints reflecting environmental influences in homogeneous populations such as young children and adolescents.
The study is led by Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, an international leader in children's environmental health who has conducted the only in-depth physical health studies of children exposed to the World Trade Center site. He collaborates with leaders of two large birth cohorts, one including children born in three lower Manhattan hospitals and another including children born in an upper Manhattan hospital that will serve as a comparison (led by principal investigators Julie B. Herbstman, PhD; Frederica Perera, PhD; and Virginia Rauh, ScD).
If World Trade Center chemical exposures are associated with adverse outcomes, the study findings could facilitate proactive interventions such as treatment with antihypertensive medications, which have been documented to prolong survival among adults with suboptimal cardiovascular profile.
Public Health Relevance Statement
Effects of perinatal exposures to the World Trade Center disaster have been associated with increases in adverse birth outcomes. The disaster also released large amounts of particulate matter, heavy metals, and persistent organic pollutants, which have been associated with adverse birth outcomes and cardiometabolic risks later in life. If chemical and psychological World Trade Center exposures are associated with these outcomes, the study findings could facilitate proactive interventions such as treatment with antihypertensive medications, which have been documented to prolong survival among adults with suboptimal cardiovascular profile.