Study: Asthma high among 9/11 workers
(New York-WABC, August 27, 2007) (WABC) -- The health department on Monday released findings from a study on the health effects of exposure to dust and debris among workers who responded to the World Trade Center on September 11th.
The data, drawn from the World Trade Center Health Registry, show that 3.6 percent of the 25,000 rescue and recovery workers enrolled in the Registry reported developing asthma after working at the site. The rate is 12 times what would be normally expected for the adult population during such a time period.
The rescue and recovery workers are a subset of the 71,000 people enrolled in the registry.
The survey, conducted in 2003 and 2004, found that arriving soon after the buildings collapsed or working on the WTC pile over a long period increased the workers' risk of developing asthma. Workers who arrived on September 11, 2001, and worked more than 90 days reported the highest rate of new asthma (7 percent).
Though the use of respirators increased as the clean-up progressed, many workers did not wear protection at the outset. Workers who wore them on September 11th and September 12th reported newly-diagnosed asthma at lower rates (4 and 2.9 percent, respectively) than those who did not (6.3 and 4.5 percent). The longer the period of not wearing masks or respirators, the greater the risk, the survey found.
Workers who went months without respiratory protection reported two to three times more asthma than those who wore respirators from the outset. Though respirators were shown to be protective, all worker groups, including those who reported wearing masks, had elevated levels of newly reported asthma.
"The dust from the World Trade Center collapse appears to have had significant respiratory health effects at least for people who worked at the site," Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden said. "These findings reflect the critical importance of getting appropriate respiratory protection to all workers as quickly as possible during a disaster and making every effort to make sure workers wear them at all times."
Rescue and recovery workers were a diverse group that included firefighters, police officers, construction workers and volunteers, among others. The study found no significant differences among people of different occupations, but workers' locations did affect their risk. Those who were caught in the dust cloud or worked on the debris pile reported asthma at higher rates, presumably because they inhaled more dust.
Guidelines for treating asthma are available at NYC.gov
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