Physician-diagnosed respiratory conditions and mental health symptoms 7-9 years following the World Trade Center disaster

Am J Ind Med. 2011 Sep;54(9):661-71. doi: 10.1002/ajim.20993.


Background: This study examines the prevalence of physician-diagnosed respiratory conditions and mental health symptoms in firefighters and emergency medical service workers up to 9 years after rescue/recovery efforts at the World Trade Center (WTC).

Methods: We analyzed Fire Department of New York (FDNY) physician and self-reported diagnoses by WTC exposure and quintiles of pulmonary function (FEV1% predicted). We used screening instruments to assess probable post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and probable depression.

Results: FDNY physicians most commonly diagnosed asthma (8.8%) and sinusitis (9.7%). The highest prevalence of physician-diagnosed obstructive airway disease (OAD) was in the lowest FEV1% predicted quintile. Participants who arrived earliest on 9/11 were more likely to have physician-diagnosed asthma (OR = 1.4). Seven percent had probable PTSD. 19.4% had probable depression.

Conclusions: Self-reported and physician-diagnosed respiratory conditions remain common, especially among those who arrived earliest at the WTC site. OAD was associated with the lowest pulmonary function. Since respiratory and mental health conditions remain prevalent, ongoing monitoring and treatment is important.

Keywords: Firefighters; Mental Health; Occupational Medicine; Respiratory Health; World Trade Center.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Emergency Medical Technicians*
  • Female
  • Firefighters*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Lung Diseases / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Mass Casualty Incidents / statistics & numerical data
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Prevalence
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / epidemiology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • September 11 Terrorist Attacks*
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Young Adult