Post-9/11 sarcoidosis in WTC-exposed firefighters and emergency medical service workers

Respir Med. 2017 Nov;132:232-237. doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2017.06.004. Epub 2017 Jun 7.


Introduction: The World Trade Center (WTC) disaster released a huge quantity and variety of toxicants into the environment. To-date, studies from each of the three major cohorts of WTC-exposed workers have suggested "greater than expected" numbers of post-9/11 cases in some workers. We undertook this study to estimate the incidence of post-9/11 sarcoidosis in ∼13,000 male firefighters and EMS workers enrolled in The Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) WTC Health Program; to compare FDNY incidence to rates from unexposed, demographically similar men in the Rochester Epidemiology Project (REP); and, to examine rates by level of WTC exposure.

Methods: We calculated incidence of sarcoidosis diagnosed from 9/12/2001 to 9/11/2015, and generated expected sex- and age-specific rates based on REP rates. Standardized incidence ratios (SIR) based on REP rates, and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) were estimated. Two sensitivity analyses limited cases to those with intra-thoracic symptoms or biopsy confirmation.

Results: We identified 68 post-9/11 cases in the FDNY cohort. Overall, FDNY rates were significantly higher than expected rates (SIR = 2.8; 95% CI = 2.2, 3.6). Including only symptomatic cases, the SIR decreased (SIR = 2.2; 95% CI = 1.5, 3.0), but remained significantly elevated. SIRs ranged from 2.7 (95% CI = 2.0, 3.5) in the lower WTC exposure group to 4.2 (95% CI = 1.9, 8.0) in the most highly exposed.

Conclusions: We found excess incident post-9/11 sarcoidosis in WTC-exposed workers. Continued surveillance, particularly of those most highly exposed, is necessary to identify those with sarcoidosis and to follow them for possible adverse effects including functional impairments and organ damage.

Keywords: Fire Department of the City of New York; Rochester Epidemiology Project; Sarcoidosis; World Trade Center.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Emergency Medical Technicians / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergency Responders / statistics & numerical data
  • Firefighters / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sarcoidosis / epidemiology*
  • September 11 Terrorist Attacks*
  • Young Adult