9/11 firefighters show long-term lung damage
Thu Nov 3, 2005 10:41 PM GMT
By Martha Kerr
MONTREAL (Reuters Health) - The latest follow-up report on lung function
in New York City firefighters shows that firefighters who served in rescue
efforts in the World Trade Center collapse are showing "accelerated
pulmonary function decline."
The data were presented here Wednesday at CHEST 2005, the annual meeting
of the American College of Chest Physicians.
Dr. David Pezant of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and deputy chief
medical officer of the New York City Department of Firefighters was lead
author of the report involving 12,079 firefighters who worked at the site
before, during and after September 11, 2001, as well as those who
were never exposed.
The cohort has been classified into groups according to exposure to particulate
matter associated with the disaster site: those exposed acutely to particulate
matter during the towers' collapse; those exposed over the next 48 hours;
those exposed after 48 hours; and those who were not exposed.
The firefighters underwent lung function testing two to three times a year
prior to 9/11 and once annually since then. Spirometry measures of lung
function correlated linearly with arrival time at the disaster site,
"Pulmonary function (forced expiratory volume in 1 second, or FEV1)
decline was about 20 to 30 mL a year prior to the attack, which you would
expect with the normal aging process," Pezant told Reuters Health.
"Instead, what we found was figures 12 times higher than that."
Lung function dropped the most for firefighters exposed during the collapse,
followed by those who arrived over the next 48 hours, followed those who were
exposed after that. Decline in lung function was around 50 percent greater in
those with late exposure compared with those who were never exposed,
Pezant pointed out that the long-term course of lung function decline
The decline in pulmonary function appears to correlate with respiratory
symptoms, he added. He also said: "I can tell you anecdotally that while
there is some improvement in those who are treated, treatment does not
eliminate the drop in pulmonary function entirely."
More than 2000 New York City firefighters have been treated for respiratory
symptoms since 9/11. Pezant said his group is currently working on that data
and a new report on the results of treatment on lung function over time will
be issued in the upcoming months.
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