Aftermath of 9/11: Study Shows Firefighters' Breathing Problems Never Went Away

Study Finds Rescue Workers from Sept. 11 Had Lung Problems Seven Years Later
By Lauren Cox, ABC News Medical Unit
April 7, 2010
ABCNews.go.com

More than seven years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, rescue workers still had trouble breathing after they inhaled from the cloud of dust that enveloped southern Manhattan, a new study concludes.

[See video available at source, http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Asthma/firefighters-911-lung-problems-study-finds/story?id=10313156 , "Study shows no recovery for 9/11 rescue workers who suffered acute lung damage".

Doctors conducted a seven-year study of members of the New York City Fire Department who responded to the World Trade Center attacks between Sept. 11 and Sept. 24, 2001. The researchers were able to include 91 percent of the responding workers -- a total of 10,870 firefighters and 1,911 EMS workers.

By 2008, the rescuers who had significant declines in lung function a year after the attack had still not recovered, and the recorded drop in lung function was about 12 times the rate seen in normal aging. The research was published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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"Exposed people want to have answers. Not just for themselves but for entire group," said Dr. David Prezant, senior author of the study and Chief Medical Officer of the Office of Medical Affairs, for the New York City Fire Department (FDNY). "I was at 9/11 and was exposed myself."

Prezant teamed up with doctors from New York University, Montefiore Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, among others, to track the workers exposed during the 9/11 attacks.

He said the partnership between the fire department, management and doctors in New York gave the study advantages over other research that has tried to assess health problems caused Sept. 11, attacks.

"Every worker in our study is a proven exposed worker," said Prezant.

Fire departments often use the same lung-function test from Prezant's study in physicals firefighters need to pass to stay on the job -- so unlike many other studies on the topic, these researchers had access to lung-function tests given to firefighters before 9/11 to compare to the tests after the attack.

Prezant also didn't have to recruit for study subjects from the general public, which might have skewed the results.

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