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9/11 Ground Zero Responders More Likely To Have Asthma

Nov 4, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP Emergency responders who participated in Ground Zero rescue and recovery efforts following the 9/11 terrorist attacks tend to suffer from asthma at about a two-fold rate compared to the rest of the U.S. population, according to a new study detailed by Science Daily.

Mount Sinai School of Medicine researchers presented the new asthma data, said Science Daily, at CHEST 2009, which is the 75th annual international scientific assembly of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP), in San Diego, California.

The study revealed that about eight percent of those workers and volunteers who were part of the World Trade Center (WTC) “rescue and recovery, essential service restoration, and clean-up efforts” underwent what is being described as post-9/11 asthma attacks or episodes, said Science Daily. Asthma is usually only experienced by four percent of the population, half of that experienced by the terror attack workers.

In the hours and days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, thousands of rescue workers descended on Ground Zero to help with recovery efforts. Sifting through dust and rubble, sometimes with their bare hands, many lacked the clothing and equipment that could have kept them safe from harm. Several studies have confirmed that Ground Zero first responders continue to suffer from ill health as a result of their exposure to toxic dust at the site, including lung diseases and post-traumatic stress disorder. It is also known that the chemicals they were exposed to included several carcinogens.

"Although previous WTC studies have shown significant respiratory problems, this is the first study to directly quantify the magnitude of asthma among WTC responders," said Hyun Kim, ScD, Instructor of Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine (MSSM) and lead author of the analysis, quoted Science Daily. "Eight years after 9/11, the WTC Program is still observing responders affected by asthma episodes and attacks at rates more than twice that of people not exposed to WTC dust," added Kim.

The medical records of 20,843 responders who underwent screenings from July 2002 to December 2007, a component of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine-coordinated WTC Program, were reviewed, according to Science Daily. The information was compared against U.S. National Health Survey Interviews adult sample data for 2000 and 2002 to 2007, reported Science Daily. The results indicate that, among the general populace, episode of asthma or asthma attacks in the prior year were comparatively stable: Under four percent from 2000 to 2007, said Science Daily. Conversely, less than one percent of responders reported asthma episodes occurring during 2000; however, eight percent reported episodes from 2005 to 2007, noted Science Daily. WTC responders were 2.3 times likelier to report asthma episodes/attacks in the prior year versus the general U.S. population, said Science Daily. Of note, 86 percent of the workers were men and they worked an average of 80 days at the sites.

"The data show an increasing percentage of responders reporting asthmatic episodes, rising to double that seen in the general population. It is clearly vital that we continue to track responders' health and look further into the medical outcomes of this population," said Philip J. Landrigan, MD, Ethel H. Wise Professor and Chair of MSSM's Department of Preventive Medicine and Principal Investigator of the WTC Program Data and Coordination Center, quoted Science Daily. "Asthma and other chronic lung conditions remain a significant burden for rescue and recovery workers responding to the attacks on the World Trade Center," said Kalpalatha Guntupalli, MD, FCCP President of the American College of Chest Physicians.

To determine eligibility, to enroll, or for more information, WTC responders can call toll-free (888) 702-0630 or visit

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