Trends in respiratory diagnoses and symptoms of firefighters exposed to the World Trade Center disaster: 2005-2010

Prev Med. 2011 Dec;53(6):364-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2011.09.001. Epub 2011 Sep 10.


Objectives: To compare the prevalence of self-reported respiratory diagnoses in World Trade Center-exposed Fire Department of New York City firefighters to the prevalence in demographically similar National Health Interview Survey participants by year; and, 2) to describe the prevalence of World Trade Center-related symptoms up to 9 years post-9/11.

Methods: We analyzed 45,988 questionnaires completed by 10,999 firefighters from 10/2/2001 to 9/11/2010. For comparison of diagnosis rates, we calculated 95% confidence intervals around yearly firefighter prevalence estimates and generated odds ratios and confidence intervals to compare the odds of diagnoses in firefighters to the National Health Interview Survey prevalence, by smoking status.

Results: Overall, World Trade Center-exposed firefighters had higher respiratory diagnosis rates than the National Health Interview Survey; Fire Department of New York City rates also varied less by smoking status. In 2009, bronchitis rates in firefighters aged 45-65 were 13.3 in smokers versus 13.1 in never-smokers while in the National Health Interview Survey, bronchitis rates were doubled for smokers: 4.3 vs. 2.1. In serial cross-sectional analyses, the prevalence of most symptoms stabilized by 2005, at ~10% for cough to ~48% for sinus.

Conclusions: We found generally higher rates of respiratory diagnoses in World Trade Center-exposed firefighters compared to US males, regardless of smoking status. This underscores the impact of World Trade Center exposure and the need for continued monitoring and treatment of this population.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Firefighters*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / diagnosis*
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / epidemiology*
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / etiology
  • September 11 Terrorist Attacks*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires