World Trade Center dust impairs lung function

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: November 10th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Exposure to pollutants at the World Trade Center tragedy on Nine-Eleven has been implicated in serious lung and respiratory problems like W-T-C cough, airway inflammation and obstruction, and bronchial disorders.

New research shows that New York City firemen and rescue workers exposed to dust from the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings suffered a drop in lung function equal to twelve years of age-related decline during the year after the Nine-Eleven disaster.

Researchers analyzed the lung function test results of nearly thirteen-thousand New York Fire Department rescue workers. Most were at Ground Zero after the World Trade Center collapsed. From the early stages of the rescue and recovery effort, rescue workers were exposed to airborne pollutants, including pulverized building materials, toxic chemicals and smoke from extremely hot fires. Those who arrived earliest got the worst of it, having significantly more frequent and severe respiratory symptoms than emergency personnel who arrived later.

While the tragedy of Nine-Eleven still haunts us, some important lessons emerged from the disaster.

In their recent article in the American Thoracic Society’s official medical journal, researchers said inadequate respiratory protective equipment and treatment compliance problems heightened the severity of breathing disorders.

The occupational problem of dust exposure could have been prevented with early and well-trained use of simple respiratory protective equipment.

Researchers said their findings call for better preparation for future disasters in many ways, including plans to protect emergency responders from unnecessary occupational exposure to irritant dusts.