The seven-year study -- led by New York's Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University and the Montefiore Medical Center -- showed a substantial proportion of emergency workers who experienced a sharp decline in lung function after exposure to dust from the World Trade Center attacks have experienced little or no meaningful recovery.
Officials said the study is the largest longitudinal research ever reported of occupational influences on lung function and the only study of World Trade Center emergency workers for which pre-attack lung function measurements were available.
"This exposure at Ground Zero was so unique that no one could have predicted the impact on lung function," said Dr. David Prezant, professor of medicine at Einstein and the study's senior author. "We demonstrated dramatic decline in lung function, mostly in the first 6 months after 9/11, and these declines persisted with little or no meaningful recovery of lung function among FDNY rescue workers (firefighters and emergency medical service workers) over the next six-and-a-half years."
Prezant, who also serves as the New York Fire Department's chief medical officer, said the study showed rescue workers suffered substantial loss in lung function in the year following the attacks -- more than 12 times the decline in lung function that would be expected to occur with normal aging.
The study appears in the New England Journal of Medicine.