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Airway Obstruction Common in World Trade Center Workers

May explain declines in lung function among rescue workers after Sept. 11, 2001

FRIDAY, March 5 (HealthDay News) -- Obstructive airways disease and air trapping may explain the declines in lung function observed in New York City Fire Department (FDNY) rescue workers who were at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, according to a study in the March issue of Chest.

To determine why FDNY rescue workers at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 have reductions in lung function, Michael D. Weiden, M.D., from New York University in New York City, and colleagues analyzed data from 1,720 workers who were referred for pulmonary subspecialty evaluations, including pulmonary function tests, methacholine challenge tests, and/or high-resolution chest computed tomography.

The researchers found that 59 percent of workers had evidence of obstructive airways disease. After adjusting for factors including age and tobacco use, there was a significant association between declines in forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) after Sept. 11 and greater residual volume predicted, greater bronchodilator responsiveness, and greater hyperreactivity. Thickening of the bronchial wall was also observed, which was significantly associated with declines in FEV1 after Sept. 11, increased hyperreactivity, and increased residual volume. There was little evidence of interstitial disease.

"Airways obstruction was the predominant physiology underlying the reduction in lung function post-Sept. 11, 2001, in FDNY-World Trade Center rescue workers presenting for pulmonary evaluation," Weiden and colleagues conclude. "The effect of treatment on the clinical course of these findings and the extent to which these findings can be applied to other World Trade Center-exposed patients remain to be determined."

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