According to a new article published by the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, “The majority of WTC-exposed fire department rescue workers experienced a substantial decline in airflow over the first 12 months post-9/11… These conditions include irritant induced asthma, non-specific chronic bronchitis, aggravated pre-existing obstructive lung disease (asthma or COPD), and bronchiolitis.”
The most common respiratory symptom was a severe cough. The complaint is so common, in fact, that it has been given the name of “World Trade Center Cough Syndrome”. While the cough seems to decrease with time, the shortness of breath remains. “These conditions, which became apparent up to several months after September 11, 2001, are now chronic and will require long-term treatment.”
It is believed that the cause of the pulmonary problems experienced by emergency responders is due in large part to the cement dust that was in the air after the collapse of the towers. Cement is highly alkaline and the body generally responds “less effectively to alkaline chemical injuries than to acidic chemical injuries, because of the limited buffering capacity of blood and body fluids for substances of high pH.”
You can read more about the different types of pulmonary problems and the projected long-term treatments that they may require in the Special issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine Volume 54, Issue 9, pages 649-660, September 2011 or you can read the article “The evolving spectrum of pulmonary disease in responders to the World Trade Center tragedy” online.