The Connection Between the WTC Attacks and a GERD Diagnosis

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a long-term condition where acid from the stomach comes up into the esophagus. Many people occasionally experience gastroesophageal reflux (GER). In most cases, the normal heart burn and indigestion people feel is short lived and flares up only in certain stressful situations or after eating certain trigger foods. However, if an individual experiences persistent acid reflux that occurs more than twice a week, they may be diagnosed with GERD. In other words, GERD is the long-term, regular occurrence of GER. A surprising thing many people do not know is that the majority of individuals who survived the 9-11 World Trade Center attacks as well as many who worked rescue and clean up efforts, have suffered from GERD in the years that have followed the attack.


What is GERD?

“Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a condition where stomach acid persistently and regularly flows up into the esophagus. The esophagus may also be referred to as the food pipe or gullet and is the tube that transports food from the mouth to the stomach. The acid in the esophagus causes heartburn and other symptoms, as well as possible tissue damage. The American College of Gastroenterology says that at least 15 million Americans, or 20 percent of the American population, experience heartburn every day” (Medical News Today). GERD on its own can be painful and annoying and reduce the quality of life for many, however, it can also worsen even further and turn into other conditions if left untreated. These include:

  • Esophagitis: This is a serious inflammation of the esophagus that causes pain, bleeding, loss of voice, and other painful and bothersome symptoms.
  • Esophageal stricture: In this condition, the esophagus swells due to the constant irritation and becomes narrow, making it difficult to swallow and even breathe.
  • Barrett’s esophagus: The cells lining the esophagus morph into ones similar to the lining of the intestines due to the acid exposure- this often later becomes cancerous.
  • Respiratory problems: It is possible to breathe stomach acid into the lungs and this can cause chest congestion, hoarseness, asthma, laryngitis, and pneumonia and worse.

This is why even though it seems like just some indigestion or heartburn, GERD is a serious disorder and can have long lasting impacts on the quality of life for those who suffer from this persistent condition.


GERD and World Trade Center Rescue Workers and Victims

It has been recently reported that gastroesophageal reflux disease, “GERD,” is the most commonly treated illness in the World Trade Center Health Program. Individuals who were in Lower Manhattan between 9/11/01 and 5/30/02, and have since developed GERD, may be eligible for free medical treatment and medication through the World Trade Center Health Program and compensation through the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Additionally, individuals who worked at the Fresh Kills landfill, on barges/trucks/piers along debris removal routes, the NYC Morgue, or at garages where emergency vehicles were cleaned may also be eligible. We have won billions in settlements for these types of clients.


PTSD and GERD Connection

Former Research Director of the World Trade Center Health Registry, Steven Stellman, lead a professional team of researchers who carefully studied data from the WTC victim and survivor registry to find a link between GERD, asthma, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It has already been fairly well established and accepted that there is a connection between GERD and PTSD, which is due to the fact that anxiety often increases gastric acid production and causes reflux. They also knew that, among 9/11 responders, there is a link between asthma and PTSD. In the study Stellman and his team conducted, the researchers found that the symptoms of GERD may be caused by or worsened by asthma and PTSD.  “Anyone can develop PTSD at any age. This includes war veterans, children, and people who have been through a physical or sexual assault, abuse, accident, disaster, or many other serious events. According to the National Center for PTSD, about 7 or 8 out of every 100 people will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. Women are more likely to develop PTSD than men, and genes may make some people more likely to develop PTSD than others. Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. Some people develop PTSD after a friend or family member experiences danger or harm. The sudden, unexpected death of a loved one can also lead to PTSD” (National Institute of Mental Health)


Contact Us Today to Learn More

If you or a loved one was involved in the 9-11 World Trade Center attacks as either a survivor or an emergency response personnel or part of the clean-up crew, then you may be entitled to compensation if you have been diagnosed with GERD. Contact our office today to schedule your free case review and consultation appoint with our team of legal experts. We are here to help and will fight for you and your rights. Call now to get started!