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Study shows Ground Zero link to lung ailments

by Leo Standora
NY Daily News
February 5th 2009

Many Sept. 11 first responders - most of them cops, firemen and construction workers who took ill after working at Ground Zero - suffered lung problems more than five years later, according to a new study.

Experts say findings by Mount Sinai Medical Center's medical monitoring program prove those exposed to toxic dust in the twin towers' collapse suffer persistent illnesses, ranging from asthma to reactive airway disease and shortness of breath.

The study could help experts who have long been struggling to set standards for defining a post-Sept. 11 illness and how long it takes to develop.

The monitoring program examined more than 3,160 WTC responders between 2004 and 2007, repeating exams conducted between the middle of 2002 and 2004.

Slightly more than 24% of those examined had abnormal lung function, the study found.

In the earlier examinations, about 28% of the patients had had similar results.

"We know people we are following are still sick. It's confirming what we've been seeing clinically," said Dr. Jacqueline Moline, who treats ailing responders and is a co-author of the study.

The growing medical fallout from the WTC attacks was the focus of the Daily News Editorial Board's groundbreaking editorial series, "9/11: The Forgotten Victims," that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007.

As a result of the series, the federal Department of Health and Human Services released $75 million to monitor and provide health care to 9/11 volunteers - the first federal funds dedicated explicitly to 9/11 health problems.

Then-Gov. George Pataki later signed a bill to provide line-of-duty death benefits to responders' families, Mayor Bloomberg committed more than $37 million to monitor and treat victims, and Congress filed legislation seeking an additional $1.9 billion over five years.

Mount Sinai's program has treated more than 26,000 people who were at the site or worked there in the days after Sept. 11.

The study's authors note that the participants all asked to be enrolled in the program and may be more symptomatic than others who were exposed but didn't enroll.

Still, Norman Edelman, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association, said the study is "probably an important finding" of long-term post-Sept. 11 illness.

"The most reasonable explanation is that there's a subset of people who, for whatever reason, were more sensitive to the stuff that was inhaled," Edelman said.

Source URL: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/2009/02/05/2009-02-05_study_shows_ground_zero_link_to_lung_ail.html

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