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 wasnt available or because it
wasnt 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
citys 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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