Gastroesophageal Reflux Symptoms and Comorbid Asthma and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Following the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks on World Trade Center in New York City

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OBJECTIVES:Excess gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) was reported in several populations exposed to the September 11 2001 (9/11) terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC). We examined new onset gastroesophageal reflux symptoms (GERS) since 9/11 and persisting up to 5–6 years in relation to 9/11-related exposures among the WTC Health Registry enrollees, and potential associations with comorbid asthma and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).METHODS:This is a retrospective analysis of 37,118 adult enrollees (i.e., rescue/recovery workers, local residents, area workers, and passersby in lower Manhattan on 9/11) who reported no pre-9/11 GERS and who participated in two Registry surveys 2–3 and 5–6 years after 9/11. Post-9/11 GERS (new onset since 9/11) reported at first survey, and persistent GERS (post-9/11 GERS reported at both surveys) were analyzed using log-binomial regression.RESULTS:Cumulative incidence was 20% for post-9/11 GERS and 13% for persistent GERS. Persistent GERS occurred more often among those with comorbid PTSD (24%), asthma (13%), or both (36%) compared with neither of the comorbid conditions (8%). Among enrollees with neither asthma nor PTSD, the adjusted risk ratio (aRR) for persistent GERS was elevated among: workers arriving at the WTC pile on 9/11 (aRR=1.6; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.3–2.1) or working at the WTC site > 90 days (aRR=1.6; 1.4–2.0); residents exposed to the intense dust cloud on 9/11 (aRR=1.5; 1.0–2.3), or who did not evacuate their homes (aRR=1.7; 1.2–2.3); and area workers exposed to the intense dust cloud (aRR=1.5; 1.2–1.8).CONCLUSIONS:Disaster-related environmental exposures may contribute to the development of GERS. GERS may be accentuated in the presence of asthma or PTSD.

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