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WTC-Exposure Causes Damage To Lung Function

Poorer Lung Function in WTC-Exposed Firefighters

A recent study of 10,461 Fire Department of the City of New York firefighters who served as first responders during 9/11 revealed a substantial decrease in lung function over the span of 13 years.

Researchers found that lung function declined about 10% on average, with little to no long-term recovery.  The analysis also revealed that firefighters who were on the scene during the morning of 9/11 continue to have lower lung function, on average, than those who arrived several days later.  Additionally, over 10% of the firefighters developed asthma and new obstructive airways diseases, including COPD and RADS.  About 1,000 firefighters who were on 9/11 duty have retired on respiratory disability.

Permanent Lung Damage After Exposure

This study has important implications.  Most studies of firefighter lung function following exposure to other catastrophes show acute lung decline followed by a return to normal function.  This suggests that the combined effects of the pulverized building materials and the chemical byproducts of combustion contained in WTC dust are significantly more dangerous to the respiratory system than the effects of heavy smoke inhalation alone.  Put shortly, WTC-exposure poses unique and heightened respiratory risks.

Quitting Smoking Can Improve Lung Function

A comparison of a healthy functioning lung versus one that is affected by COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). COPD reduces air flow in and out of the airways due to loss of airway elasticity, destruction of air sac walls, inflammation and thickening of airways, and/or overproduction of airway mucus.

Although approximately 65% of World Trade Center firefighters in the study had no history of smoking, the study showed that lack of smoking cessation among smokers contributed to the prevalence of abnormal lung function.  In fact, the magnitude of lung-related diseases was found to be 20% more severe in those firefighter smokers who did not quit smoking after 2008 than those who did.  Therefore, though exposure to WTC dust was shown to have irreversible effects, researchers found that quitting smoking could lessen such damages among smokers.

What You Can Do

If you, or someone you know, is currently suffering from a respiratory issue that may be related to WTC-exposure, contact our offices here to see if you have a claim, or call us at 1-888-444-2336.


Aldrich, T et. al., Lung Function Trajectories in World Trade Center – Exposed New York City Firefighters Over 13 Years, Chest Journal, 149(6), 2016

Mohr, L., Longitudinal Lung Function Decrements in Firefighters Who Responded to the World Trade Center Disaster, Chest Journal, 149(6), 2016

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