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Workers at the World Trade Center Site Face Higher Risk for COPD

Rescue and recovery workers who arrived at the site early and those with a previous asthma diagnosis face the greatest risk for developing COPD

MONDAY, Sept. 20, 2021 (HealthDay News) — World Trade Center (WTC) workers who arrived at the site soon after the September 11, 2001, attacks are at increased risk for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a study presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress 2021, held virtually from Sept. 5 to 8.

Rafael E. de la Hoz, M.D., from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, and colleagues evaluated the association between COPD and early arrival at the WTC disaster site (within 48 hours, when dust and fumes exposures were more intense). The analysis included 17,996 former WTC workers with at least two spirometry measurements between 2002 and 2018.

The researchers found that 3.3 percent of cases met the COPD case definition, while 1.4 percent of cases met the asthma-COPD overlap (ACO) case definition. COPD and ACO were associated with early arrival at the WTC site (adjusted odds ratios, 1.3 and 1.66, respectively). This finding was seen in adjusted analyses controlling for covariates such as smoking, age, cohort entry period, metabolic syndrome indicators, and high peripheral eosinophil count.

“Around the world, we rely on our emergency workers to help when disasters occur. This study shows how important it is to keep monitoring the health of workers, like those who attended the WTC site 20 years ago, as occupational exposure to pollutants can lead to COPD,” Arzu Yorgancıoğlu, M.D., chair of the European Respiratory Society Advocacy Council and a professor in pulmonology at Celal Bayar University in Manisa, Turkey, said in a statement. “What we can learn from research like this is not only how best to care for emergency workers who operate in dangerous conditions, but also how we can protect them in their work in the future.”

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