Firefighters Sarcoidosis Exposure Lawsuits. On May 7, 2007, in the first clinical study to connect World Trade Center dust to serious and on occasion fatal diseases, doctors discovered that the number of New York City rescue and recovery workers with a rare type of lung-scarring condition soared in the year after the trade center collapsed. Doctors from the Fire Department and at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that 13 firefighters and emergency medical service workers developed sarcoidosis. The authors of the study, which include Dr. David J. Prezant, deputy chief medical officer of the Fire Department and a member of the faculty at Albert Einstein calculated an incidence rate in the first year after the collapse of 86 cases per 100,000 workers. This finding is more than five times higher than the 15 per 100,000 rate (an average of two to four cases per year) for Firefighter Department workers in the 15 years before the trade center collapsed.
After the original rise in disease rates after 9/11, the number of cases of sarcoidosis and similar illnesses dropped, according to the study, but remained rather higher than normal for several more years, equivalent to a rate of 22 per 100,000 (with no more than four cases each year). In total, doctors found 26 cases of sarcoidosis in the five years after 9/11, an amount surpassing the combined total for the previous 15 years.
Several federal and local studies of the health impact of contact with to World Trade Center dust have shown that a high percentage of rescue and recovery workers developed persistent coughs and other respiratory problems. But until now, there has not been enough data available to say with certainty whether more serious illnesses might develop.
The new peer-reviewed study, released on May 7, 200, which can be found in the medical journal Chest, is considered to have a high degree of reliability because yearly checkups by department doctors make it possible to compare a firefighter’s condition before and after 9/11. Other clinical studies are usually based on conditions reported by rescue and recovery workers.
On average, the firefighters and emergency workers with sarcoidosis were 39 years old and had 10 years’ experience on the job. Of the 26 workers who have the illness, 24 said they never smoked tobacco, and the other two were described as ex-smokers.
What is Sarcoidosis?
Sarcoidosis is a disease that results from inflammation of tissues of the body. It can appear in almost any body organ, but most often starts in the lungs or lymph nodes. The disease can appear suddenly and disappear, or it can develop little by little and go on to produce symptoms that come and go, sometimes for a lifetime. As sarcoidosis progresses, small lumps, or granulomas, appear in the affected tissues. In the majority of cases, these granulomas clear up, either with or without treatment. In the few cases where the granulomas do not heal and disappear, the tissues tend to remain inflamed and become scarred (fibrotic).
What are symptoms of sarcoidosis?
Shortness of breath (dyspnea), chest pain, and a cough that won’t go away can be among the first symptoms of sarcoidosis. But sarcoidosis can also show up suddenly with the appearance of skin rashes. Red bumps (erythema nodosum) on the face, arms, or shins, and inflammation of the eyes are also common symptoms. It is not unusual, however, for sarcoidosis symptoms to be more general. Weight loss, fatigue, night sweats, fever, or just an overall feeling of ill health can also be clues to the disease.
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