9/11 Workers Still Experiencing Lung Problems

Years after the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/world_trade_center_emergency_workers">workers exposed to the lingering smoke cloud following the towers’ collapse still suffer from lung impairment, reports CNN. According to the news outlet, the smoke resulting from the explosions “vaporized concrete and drywall.”

According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, those New York City Fire Department (NYFD) rescue workers exposed to the smoke and dust cloud suffered from a reduction in lung function following the attacks, citing researchers in New York just after the catastrophe, said CNN. Now, the Journal reports, said CNN, those researchers are seeing lasting lung impairment in those workers, which include FDNY and emergency medical personnel.

“This group has suffered real declines that need to be addressed with regular monitoring and aggressive treatment, because they are now at higher risk for developing future lung problems,” said the study’s senior author, Dr. David J. Prezant, chief medical officer of the NYFD and a professor of pulmonary medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, quoted CNN. “We confirmed that the drop in lung function that occurred during that first year was substantial, and for the first time we showed that this drop is persistent.”

The team measured the lung function of over 12,000 fire department personnel who worked at Ground Zero, comparing the 2001 and 2002 results against the same group prior to the attacks, said CNN. The earlier testing took place as part of routine fire department physicals. The team found workers’ lung function declines were comparable to 12 years of natural aging, said CNN. The team followed the affected firefighter and medical personnel for about six years, measuring lung function every 12 to 18 months. “Little or no” improvement was seen in the workers’ average lung function, according to the study, wrote CNN.

Persistent lung function decline has negative impacts on future lung issues as well as short-term problems, said Prezant. “It places them at a higher risk for shortness of breath, cough, wheeze, [and] impairments in their ability to exercise and perform physically demanding jobs,” added Prezant, quoted CNN.

A prior report in The New York Law Journal found that some lawsuits prompted by the results of the attacks, allege that as many as 325 illnesses, including 57 types of cancer were caused by toxins at the site. Another study looked at 765 people enrolled in the Bellevue Hospital World Trade Center Environmental Health Center and who did not complain of headache symptoms prior to the attacks, said Science Daily previously. Over half reported exposure to the initial dust cloud; 43 percent reported headaches in the first four weeks preceding enrollment in the study. Wheezing; breathlessness with exertion, such as in exercise; nasal drip; sinus congestion; and reflux disease were also potential associated symptoms, reported Science Daily previously.

Dr. Neil Schachter, professor of pulmonary medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center said, “The toxic, irritant fumes caused a sudden and relatively dramatic decline in lung function among healthy first responders. There was a significant effect of the exposure in this group of otherwise healthy individuals,” quoted CNN. The effects of this exposure continue to e followed by researchers, those in the medical community, and lawyers, noted CNN.

Of interest, New York City officials reached a settlement of up to $657.5 million with about 10,000 firefighters, police officers, construction workers, and other responders last month. The group alleged they developed chronic health conditions following exposure to the dust cloud, said CNN. A federal judge promptly objected to the settlement terms which are expected to be renegotiated, wrote CNN.

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