The World Trade Center residents' respiratory health study: new-onset respiratory symptoms and pulmonary function

Environ Health Perspect. 2005 Apr;113(4):406-11. doi: 10.1289/ehp.7375.


The destruction of the World Trade Center (WTC) on 11 September 2001 in New York City resulted in the massive release of pulverized dust and combustion products. The dust and smoke settled in the surrounding area, which encompassed a large residential community. We hypothesized that previously normal residents in the community surrounding the former WTC would have an increased incidence of persistent respiratory symptoms and abnormalities in screening spirometry. A hybrid cross-sectional and retrospective cohort study using a symptom-based questionnaire and onsite screening spirometry in residents in an exposed area and in a control area was performed 12 +/- 4 months after the collapse. Surveys were analyzed from 2,812 residents. New-onset respiratory symptoms were described by 55.8% of residents in the exposed area, compared with 20.1% in the control area after the event. Persistent new-onset symptoms were identified in 26.4 versus 7.5% of residents in the exposed area versus control area, respectively. No differences in screening spirometry between the groups were detected. A small pilot study suggested the possibility of an increase in bronchial hyperresponsiveness in exposed participants with persistent symptoms. The data demonstrate an increased rate of new-onset and persistent respiratory health effects in residents near the former WTC compared with a control population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Construction Materials
  • Cough / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dust*
  • Dyspnea / epidemiology
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Respiratory Sounds
  • September 11 Terrorist Attacks*
  • Spirometry


  • Air Pollutants
  • Dust