FOURTEEN HEROIC Search and Rescue dogs have died since their exposure to toxic rubble in the wreckage of the World Trade Center from the September 11th terrorist attack on New York three years ago. Eight of the fourteen died from cancer, according to a study released last weekend.
However, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, who conducted the study, said there seemed no connection between the deaths and the chemicals they were exposed to.
"We can't find any link at this point that ties the 14 deaths to events of September 11," said lead researcher Dr. Cynthia Otto. "Some have passed away, but the causes of death are no different than in the control group. That is good news."
Dr Otto's team, which has been monitoring the health of 97 SAR dogs who worked at Ground Zero, the Pentagon and the Fresh Kills landfill site on Staten Island, New York, did find "significantly higher" antibodies in the search dogs in the first year after the terrorist attack.
The elevated presence of antibodies, she explained, showed the dogs had been exposed to foreign substances that caused their immune systems to work harder and thus produce more antibodies.
Although Otto was heartened to find the vast majority of dogs were in good health, given the exposure and the blood changes in the first year, questions remain about possible long-term effects after their exposure to toxic rubble.
"I don't think these dogs are completely out of the woods," she said. "That is why we need to monitor these dogs until the end of their lives - for the dogs' sake and for peoples’ sake. If there is a problem in the dogs down the line, there is a good chance a similar problem could be found in people."
Earlier, Sierra Club, an environmental group, criticized the Bush administration for failing to warn people of the health risks of breathing toxic smoke and dust at ground zero.
The group said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) failed at least a dozen times to change its safety assurances about the air quality at ground zero, even after it became clear that people were becoming sick, and in some cases, did not even check for toxic hazards.