When the World Trade Center (WTC) buildings collapsed on September 11, 2001, nearly 3,000 people died and an estimated 250,000 to 400,000 people who were visiting, living, working, and attending school nearby, or responding to the attack, were exposed to a mixture of dust, debris, smoke, and various chemicals. In the months to follow, thousands of people who returned to the area to live and work, as well as responders who were involved in the search for remains and site cleanup, were also exposed. In addition, people in New York City and across the country were exposed to the emotional trauma of a terrorist attack on American soil. Concerns have been raised about the short- and long-term physical and mental health effects of the attack. Various government agencies and private organizations established efforts to monitor and understand these health effects. GAO was asked to describe the health effects that have been observed in the aftermath of the WTC attack and the efforts that are in place to monitor and understand those health effects. GAO searched bibliographic databases such as Medline to determine the pertinent scientific literature, reviewed that literature, and interviewed and reviewed documents from government officials, health professionals, and officials of labor groups.
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