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Context of 'June 1, 2002: Journal Article Discusses Rare Lung Disease in Ground Zero Rescue Worker'

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New York City Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen says that almost 4,000 firefighters who have participated in the rescue efforts at the World Trade Center have complained of respiratory problems, but adds that long term effects of working at Ground Zero are uncertain. “We won’t know for a long period of time if there is any long term effect. Some might lead to asthma, some might lead to lung conditions,” One firefighter has been treated for allergic alveolitis, a rare lung inflammation. Von Essen’s comments follow a Newsweek interview with Dr. David Prezant, the chief pulmonary physician for the city’s fire department. Prezant explained to the magazine that thousands of firefighters require medical care for a range of illnesses, including coughs, sinus infections, lung trauma and severe asthma. Prezant, a professor at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine, has referred to these ailments collectively as the “World Trade Center cough.” (CNN 10/29/2001; CNN 10/29/2001; Dreher 10/29/2001; Ramirez 10/30/2001; BBC 10/31/2001; Gonzalez 11/20/2001 pdf file)

An article in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine summarizes the condition of a New York City firefighter who has contracted acute eosinophilic pneumonia, a rare disease caused by acute high dust exposure. Tests indicate that the firefighter—who worked 16-hour days for 2 weeks at the World Trade Center site—had fly ash, degraded glass, as well as chrysotile and amosite asbestos fibers in his lungs. (Rom et al. 2002)

The journal Chest publishes an article summarizing the case of a 37-year-old male engineer who is diagnosed with cough and dyspnea three weeks after being exposed to dust at Ground Zero. The patient’s lung biopsy contained large quantities of silicates. The authors of the study suggest “that exposure to one or more materials resulting from the WTC catastrophe may be implicated in the development of granulomatous pulmonary disease.” (B.H. et al. 1/2003)


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