Health risks for Hurricane Katrina first responders under debate
Richard A. Webster
New Orleans CityBusiness (New Orleans, LA)
Copyright 2006 Dolan Media Newswires
The lungs of rescue workers who spent days in the wreckage of the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks aged 12 years in just one year's time, a recent medical report found. Government officials in Louisiana said there should be no long-term health risks for Hurricane Katrina first responders, but some environmental experts are not as confident. They say without any reliable system in place to track their health, the long-term impact may never be known.
"Part of the problem is there wasn't any type of tracking system to check who went in, when they went in, how long they were in and where they are at now," said Darryl Malek-Wiley, the New Orleans representative for the Sierra Club. "And it's real hard if there's not that type of registry to know if you're sick four years later that it happened because you were in the floodwaters of New Orleans. It was just chaos to say the least. " The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine conducted a study of 12,000 New York firefighters and found that in the four years before Sept. 11, 2001, the lung volume of rescue workers dropped an average of 31 milliliters a year. Lung volume measurements determine how much a person can inhale.