World Trade Rescue Workers Have Respiratory Problems

Respiratory symptoms and abnormal pulmonary function most common

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Over 60 percent of the rescue and recovery workers who responded to the Sept. 11, 2001 World Trade Center (WTC) disaster developed chronic respiratory problems and one-third had abnormal pulmonary function tests, according to a study published Sept. 7 in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, and colleagues set up the WTC Worker and Volunteer Medical Screening Program, which covered almost 12,000 of the approximately 40,000 rescue and recovery workers who were exposed to caustic dust and toxic pollutants. The study participants were examined between July 2002 and April 2004 using medical, mental health and exposure questionnaires as well as physical examination, spirometry and chest X-ray.

New or worsened respiratory problems were reported by 69 percent of the 9,442 responders who consented to the inclusion of their test results in the study. At the time of examination, 59 percent reported persistent symptoms and 28 percent had abnormal spirometry with 21 percent registering low forced vital capacity. Those who arrived earliest on site were more likely to suffer symptoms.

"Long-term medical monitoring is required to track persistence of these abnormalities and identify late effects, including possible malignancies. Lessons learned should guide future responses to civil disasters," the authors conclude.

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