When the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, occurred, massage therapists poured into New York City to offer touch to rescue workers. New research shows volunteers who turned out in the thousands to assist the rescue operation, along with others who were directly exposed to the events of the 9/11 disaster, are now suffering from a range of physical and mental illnesses, according to a press release from Elsevier, which published research on the of the attacks in its journal Preventive Medicine.

Volunteers not affiliated with an organization were more highly exposed to the World Trade Center disaster than volunteers affiliated with recognized organizations and were at greater risk for developing physical and mental health conditions after 9/11, according to the volunteer study. “The study showed the need to provide volunteers with long-term screening and treatment for 9/11-related conditions that resulted from hazardous exposures,” the press release noted.

The World Trade Center disaster exposed nearly half a million people to environmental toxins, hazardous chemicals and traumatic events, and is still having ongoing health effects, the press release noted.

“The New York City Health Department’s volunteer and heart disease studies in this issue of Preventive Medicine reinforce the importance of tracking the long-term physical and mental health effects of 9/11 and help inform planning for future 9/11-related health care needs,” said New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley.

Respiratory illness, dubbed World Trade Center Cough, is also more likely to afflict first responders from the Fire Department of New York City than other U.S. males, the press release noted. According to the research, bronchitis is nearly six-fold higher in young-WTC exposed firefighters. The study of 11,000 firefighters demonstrates that the firefighters exposed to the WTC disaster, along with volunteers of all kinds, continue to bear a heavy burden following their remarkable actions ten years ago.

A study of adults exposed to 9/11 found that being in the dust cloud, being injured on 9/11, or developing posttraumatic stress disorder increased the risk of developing heart disease years after the disaster, according to the press release.

The research appears in the special World Trade Center Disaster: 10th Anniversary issue of Preventive Medicine.

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