Air Today . . . Gone Tomorrow Article

Firefighters Plagued By Health Problems From WTC Attack
NY1 WTC Coverage, September 10, 2002

    As many as 500 New York City firefighters might have to retire on disability due to respiratory ailments caused by inhaling smoke and debris at the site of the World Trade Center attack.
    A persistent condition, dubbed “World Trade Center cough,” has been diagnosed in 358 firefighters in a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released on Monday. Symptoms, which must result in at least four weeks of disability to meet the definition, include wheezing, shortness of breath, sinus inflammation and heartburn.
    Just over half of the firefighters diagnosed with World Trade Center cough are still on medical leave or light duty. In addition, 213 firefighters and pardemedics remain on leave with stress-related problems, according to the CDC report.
    On September 11 and the days immediately following the attack, when the dense smoke from the fires and harmful particles from the pulverized twin towers were at their most dangerous levels, many firefighters and other rescuers did not wear proper breathing filters, either because enough equipment wasn’t available or because it wasn’t practical in the desperate situation.
    When the cough first appeared, doctors had expected a recovery rate of around 90 percent, based on previous experience. But the much slower recovery now leads officials to estimate that as many as 500 firefighters might eventually qualify for disability retirement due to chronic respiratory illnesses.
    The number of early retirees would represent four percent of the city’s 11,000 firefighters, at a time when the FDNY is still coping with the loss of 343 firefighters and EMTs in the World Trade Center attack.

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