As if the trauma of working at the horrific collapse of the World Trade Centers in New York City on September 11, 2001 wasn't enough, new findings from the NYC Department of Health now reveal that rescue and relief workers—especially those who worked during the event and in the first 10 days afterwards—are suffering much higher rates of developing asthma than in the general population.
Rescue workers were exposed to high levels of dust and debris in the aftermath of 9/11. Many times, they didn't have adequate respiratory protection, for many reasons. Sometimes the equipment hadn't yet been made available—at least not in the numbers needed—while in others, the equipment was there, but it wasn't used correctly.
Out of 26,000 workers surveyed, 926 or 3.6% developed newly-diagnosed asthma afterwards. This is roughly 12 times the normal rate. Those who were caught in the dust cloud or worked on the debris pile had even higher risk for asthma. So did those who worked at the site for 90 days or more.
Wearing masks with respirators was shown to be somewhat effective, but did not prevent asthma across the board. The good news is that asthma can be controlled and symptoms prevented with the right combination of medication and trigger avoidance.
However, I find it sobering that a full 6 years after the attacks on the WTC, the aftermath of terrorism is still having an effect on the people involved in the tragedy.
Read more about the study findings here