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WTC First Responders More Likely to Have Asthma: Study

FRIDAY, Dec. 16 (HealthDay News) -- First responders at the World Trade Center attack suffer asthma at more than double the rate of the general U.S. population, new research shows.

According to a study published online Dec. 8 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, researchers found this increased prevalence of asthma appears to be the result of their exposure to the toxic dust created when the towers collapsed.

"This is the first study to directly quantify the magnitude of asthma among WTC responders," study first author Dr. Hyun Kim, an epidemiologist and assistant professor of population health at the North Shore-LIJ Health System and the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, said in a news release from North Shore. "This epidemic of asthma among WTC responders started right after the 9/11 disaster, and we are still observing elevated rates of asthma in this population. It is critical to keep monitoring responders' health and provide proper treatment."

Researchers compared medical information compiled on almost 21,000 responders from 2002 to 2007 with national health survey data over the same time period. They found 86 percent of WTC responders, including police officers, construction workers and transportation workers, were men who worked an average of 80 days at the WTC site.

The study revealed that 6.3 percent of WTC first responders reported asthma symptoms or attacks in the prior 12 months, compared to just 3.7 percent of the general U.S. population. Although rates of asthma were stable for the general population, there was a surge in 12-month asthma rates among WTC responders from 2000 to 2005.

When researchers also included the year before the attacks, 12-month asthma rates were 40 times higher among first responders. When considering 2002 to 2005, researchers found the 12-month asthma rate doubled among WTC workers.

"The results show that WTC responders have higher rates of asthma than the general population," Dr. Jacqueline Moline, vice president and chair of the department of population health at North Shore-LIJ Health System and the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, and director of the Queens WTC Clinical Center of Excellence at Long Island Jewish Medical Center/Queens College, said in a news release. "This reinforces the fact that continued surveillance is critical to avoid permanent lung damage and other irreversible illnesses among the WTC responder population."

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides more information on asthma.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: North Shore-LIJ Health System, news release, Dec. 2, 2011

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