New York emergency personnel who responded after the World Trade Center attacks have shown an increased incidence of chronic pulmonary inflammation, researchers at Mt. Sinai reported in a recent clinical study. More than 50,000 men and women were exposed to products of combustion, asbestos and particulate matter after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
Mount Sinai researchers studied the medical records of almost 20,000 New York firefighters and emergency responders as part of a World Trade Center Monitoring and Treatment Program. The research, published in 2011 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, revealed an elevated number of cases of a pulmonary condition called sarcoid like granulomatous pulmonary disease. The average yearly occurrence of the disease among first responders more than tripled from 15 cases per 100,000 in health screenings before Sept. 11, 2001 to 54 cases per 100,000 in 2003 and 2004 —the peak years, according to the new study. Two other studies have reported similar findings.
Sarcoid Like Granulomatous Pulmonary Disease causes inflammation in one or more organs including the lungs and lymph nodes. Granulomas are small tumor-like nodules in the lungs, lymph glands, liver and salivary glands. Granuloma formation may lead to scarring of the lung, known as fibrosis. The cause of the disease is unknown, but it has been linked to multiple environmental and occupational exposures. A portion of those who develop the disease may suffer permanent lung damage.
“Our findings support the hypothesis that environmental exposures generated by the destruction of the World Trade Center may cause ‘Sarcoid like’ Granulomatous Pulmonary Disease,” said Laura Crowley, assistant professor of preventive medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in a press release.
Some research has shown an association between sarcoid like granulomas, sarcoidosis and cancer, but exactly how they are associated remains unclear.
Crowley said monitoring of World Trade Center responders including periodic chest x-rays, must continue so that the NY responders health issues are identified and treated in the early stages.
Philip Landrigan, MD, chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, said the results of the study clearly support the critical need for ongoing monitoring and treatment for WTC responders.
A medical study published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that New York firefighters and rescue workers who worked at Ground Zero after the 9/11 terrorist attacks still have significantly abnormal lung function years later. Some dust from the World Trade Center destruction contained asbestos and other contaminants, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Inhaling airborne asbestos is closely associated with respiratory disease including lung cancer and mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung. Symptoms of mesothelioma typically take 20 to 40 years to appear after exposure to asbestos.