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Airway Injury Plaguing 9/11 First Responders
Date:3/4/2010

NYC firefighters more likely to suffer from asthma, study finds

THURSDAY, March 4 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests that airway injuries account for the asthma that has afflicted many New York City Fire Department rescue workers who were exposed to dust from the World Trade Center collapse.

The dust appears to be causing symptoms similar to those seen in decades past in miners exposed to toxins, said Dr. Michael D. Weiden, a New York City fire department medical officer and lead author of the new study on the lung problems of the 9/11 rescue workers.

"You usually think people get an injury and they heal," he said. "In this case, they continued to have symptoms and present for medical attention for a long time after a relatively brief exposure. It shows that the irritation caused ongoing inflammation which affected the airways of these people."

Experts estimate that as many as 40,000 people breathed noxious pollution, including dust, in the wake of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Protective masks weren't always immediately available for first responders.

Doctors have been monitoring 13,234 rescue workers from the New York City Fire Department. Of those, specialists have evaluated 13 percent -- 1,720 -- because they've showed signs of lung problems.

That's a major increase in lung problems since before 9/11, Weiden said. Doctors consider that a sign that firefighting itself, with its exposure to smoke and other toxins, isn't the main cause of the lung ailments experienced by the first responders.

Also, he said, "the people who were there at the time of the collapse and were caught in the dust cloud have had the highest need to go on to treatment. People who were there after that afternoon had a somewhat lower incidence, and those who came three days later had even lower need."

The new study compiles the results of lung examinations of
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