October 23, 2006
The Toxic Effects of the Dust at Ground Zero
The NY Times has an interesting article this morning on diseases suspected to be linked to the dust created by the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. See http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/24/nyregion/24toxic.html The problem, of course, is the familiar and knotty one of causation. On one side are those who would like to set high standards of biological plausibility and nearly unequivocal proof; on the other are those who complain that such standards are nearly impossible to meet and are excessive for establishing causation for legal purposes. For example, in the case featured in the NY Times article, the victim was awarded compensation from the 9/11 fund, but the medical examiner refused to place the victim's name on the list of 9/11 victims, citing the lack of sufficient medical proof. As is often the case epidemiological studies have been slow to materialize, perhaps complicated by potential latency periods and the relatively small sample size.