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article imageGround Zero workers still suffering lung damage

By KJ Mullins     Apr 8, 2010 in Health
Many of the rescue workers from the New York Fire Department that made up the rescue effort at the World Trade Center are dealing with lung damage to this day, a new study found.
A study lead by David Prezant, M.D., professor of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medical Center found that the significant proportion of rescue workers who suffered acute lung damage after exposure to World Trade Center (WTC) dust have not recovered normal lung function since the 2001 attack.
This is the only group of WTC workers that had lung function tests prior to 9/11. Using almost 62,000 individual lung function measurements, the results showed that lung damage remains in many of the workers.
"This exposure at Ground Zero was so unique that no one could have predicted the impact on lung function. We demonstrated dramatic decline in lung function, mostly in the first 6 months after 9/11, and these declines persisted with little or no meaningful recovery of lung function among FDNY rescue workers (firefighters and emergency medical service workers) over the next six-and-a-half years," said David Prezant, M.D. in a Medical News Today article.
The 92 percent of the participants of the study had spirometry testing prior to 9/11. The results offered a true baseline to gauge lung function after the terror attack. The spirometry testing showed that even those who were non-smokers had lung function levels that were below normal. Furthermore those workers' below-normal results increased over time. By the end of the study 13 percent for firefighters and 22 percent for EMS workers had below normal readings.
"Previous studies have indicated that the effects of firefighting on lung function are mild and reversible," said lead author Thomas Aldrich, M.D., professor of medicine at Einstein and an attending physician in the pulmonary medicine division at Montefiore. "The difference seems to be that the workers in our study population experienced repeated daily exposures to much higher concentrations of airborne particulates (solid particles suspended in the air) and gaseous chemicals."
Dr. Aldrich believes that the unusual nature of the dust cloud and the smoke from fires that burnt from September until mid-December are to blame for the lung damage.
More about Ground zero, Rescue workers, World trade center, Lung damage
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