Rescue and recovery workers who attended the World Trade Center site are beginning to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to research presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress by Mount Sinai researchers.
Twenty years on from the September 11 attacks, rescue and recovery workers and volunteers who attended the World Trade Center site are beginning to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) often following a previous diagnosis of asthma, according to research presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress.
The study of almost 18,000 workers and volunteers shows that those who arrived on the site soon after the Twin Towers collapsed face the greatest risk of COPD.
COPD is a chronic lung condition that causes breathing difficulties, coughing and wheezing that get worse over time. It mainly affects older people who smoke, but occupational and environmental exposures are increasingly recognised as risk factors.
The research was presented by Professor Rafael E. de la Hoz from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, USA. He said: “We know that emergency workers who arrived in the aftermath of the World Trade Center disaster face higher risks of airway diseases, such as asthma, chronic non-specific bronchitis and bronchiolitis, probably caused by the smoke and toxic dust that persisted in the air days and weeks after the attacks. It’s important that we continue to monitor these workers to understand the long-term impacts of their exposure while working on the site because some conditions can take many years to develop.”
The study included 17,996 people who had worked at the World Trade Center site. Each of these workers took part in spirometry tests to measure their lung health on at least two occasions between 2002 and 2018. These tests assess how much air a person can breathe out in one forced breath, and they are used to help diagnose COPD and asthma.