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Occupational asthma in World Trade Center rescue and recovery workers.

Lutzker L; Wheeler K; McKelvey W; Thorpe L; Perrin M; Cone J; Kass D; Farfel M; Thomas P; Brackbill R
SENSOR Occup Lung Dis Bull 2007 Dec; :1-2
This issue of the Occupational Lung Disease Bulletin provides a summary of and additional comments on a recently published article about work-related asthma among workers and volunteers involved in rescue and recovery at the World Trade Center site. It serves as a reminder that both disaster and non-disaster workers are frequently exposed to a wide range of respiratory hazards, including potential asthmagens. It also emphasizes the necessity for ongoing medical surveillance of disaster workers and encourages the involvement of the occupational health community in disaster preparedness efforts. Following the attacks of September 11, 2001 on the World Trade Center (WTC) in New York City (NYC), an estimated 91,469 workers and volunteers were involved in rescue, recovery, demolition, construction, clean-up, and support services. Workers present during the initial collapse of the buildings were exposed to a dust and smoke cloud consisting of a wide range of pulverized building materials and products of pyrolysis.(1) The initial dust cloud settled approximately 12 hours following the collapse of the second tower, but airborne contaminants resulting from smoldering fires and re-suspension of particulate matter during debris removal persisted through May 2002. Throughout this rescue and recovery period, responders were permitted to enter sites and perform tasks where hazards were unevaluated, and issues of worker protection were poorly considered. For example, during the initial 48 hours after the attacks, hardware-store dust masks - which provide inadequate respiratory protection - were the primary type of respiratory protective equipment provided on site,(2) and while appropriately protective respirators were widely distributed to workers by September 17th, fit-testing and proper training for use of these respirators was not widely offered until October 17th, 36 days after the initial attack.(3) Numerous other studies have documented adverse respiratory outcomes following exposure to WTC conditions, including RADS, increased bronchial hyperreactivity, "WTC cough", and declines in pulmonary function.(4, 5, 6) This is the first study to specifically examine new-onset asthma among WTC-site workers. A total of 926 workers reported newly diagnosed asthma after the events of September 11th, and exposure intensity and duration were found to be independently and significantly associated with an increased risk of new-onset asthma among those interviewed.
Occupational-health; Work-environment; Workers; Occupational-exposure; Respiratory-system-disorders; Pulmonary-system-disorders; Bronchial-asthma; Surveillance-programs; Health-hazards; Worker-health; Occupational-diseases; Health-care; Disease-prevention; Medical-monitoring; Medical-screening; Occupational-medicine; Occupational-respiratory-disease; Employee-exposure; Emergency-response; Emergency-responders; Rescue-workers
Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Occupational Health Surveillance Program, 250 Washington Street, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02108
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Cooperative Agreement
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Healthcare and Social Assistance
Source Name
SENSOR Occupational Lung Disease Bulletin
Performing Organization
Massachusetts State Department of Public Health
Page last reviewed: March 25, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division