On September 11, 2001, Lucie Lagodich was just 11 months old but already able to sit up. A private family photo snapped on that day and shared with Newsweek by her mother, Tracy Gill, shows her perched on an exposed, cement rooftop in downtown Manhattan. Just above her, two plumes of smoke drift from the giant holes ripped in the World Trade Center towers.
“There is the innocence of the child, and then there is this horrible event taking place, with no connection between the two,” says Lagodich, now 16. “When I look at that photo, it is so surreal to me. It was such an insane moment in our history. I don’t remember it, but, in some way or another, it has always been a part of me.”
The baby teeth of 9/11-era children like Lagodich have become the focus of a pilot study in recent months by scientists at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital. They are examining how pollutants released into the air when the World Trade Center towers collapsed may have long-term health consequences for children who grew up near Ground Zero, many of them now teenagers and young adults. In preliminary results shared exclusively with Newsweek, the doctors said approximately half of the baby teeth tested from four small batches last week showed traces of tin and lead, neurotoxins found in the dust cloud left by the fallen towers.
“We didn’t know what we’d find, but the lead and tin, these two elements, turned up as a strong signal in the data,” says the study’s lead scientist, Dr. Roberto Lucchini, professor of preventive medicine at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine. “It shows the need to broaden the research to include more baby teeth that would allow us to form firm scientific conclusions.”