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9/11 Rescue Workers Suffered Permanent Lung Damage
Date:4/7/2010

Many Trade Center first responders still struggle with wheezing, shortness of breath, study finds

WEDNESDAY, April 7 (HealthDay News) -- World Trade Center rescue workers showed lingering lung damage more than six years after exposure to the toxic dust cloud on Sept. 11, 2001 -- damage that is likely permanent, researchers say.

Researchers measured the lung function of about 92 percent of the almost 14,000 New York City firefighters and emergency medical services (EMS) workers who responded to Ground Zero in the wake of the terrorist attacks.

In the year after their exposure to such pollutants as burning jet fuel and pulverized building materials, firefighters and EMS workers experienced a steep drop in average lung function. Non-smoking firefighters were especially hard hit, according to the study in the April 8 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

About 18 percent of firefighters who had never smoked had abnormal lung function for their age after one year, compared to 3 percent prior to the exposure. Among EMS workers, 22 percent had abnormal lung function after one year, compared to 12 percent prior to exposure, according to the study.

Over the next six-plus years, the workers showed little or no recovery in lung function, said Dr. David J. Prezant, senior author of the study and chief medical officer for the New York City Fire Department.

About 13 percent of firefighters and 22 percent of emergency medical services workers continued to have abnormal lung function six years later.

"This decline is permanent, demonstrating the need for continued monitoring and aggressive treatment," said Prezant, who is also a professor of medicine at Albert Einstein Medical School in New York City.

"This is the largest study done to date of the most severely exposed workers -- firefighters and EMS workers," he added. "The greater exposure you had, the more decline you
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