Respiratory illness plagues 9/11 responders, doctors say
By Devlin Barrett
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Doctors treating sickened ground zero workers offered Congress a detailed diagnosis Wednesday of the ailments still affecting thousands after the Sept. 11 attacks, from runny noses to laryngitis to lung disease.
Dr. Philip Landrigan of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine described three months of recent medical treatment to a House panel examining how many of those who toiled on the toxic debris pile are still sick — or may get sick.
Thousands of people "are still suffering," Landrigan said a day after the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
"Respiratory illness, psychological distress and financial devastation have become a new way of life for many," he told a House Education and Labor subcommittee.
The figures offered Wednesday further define the medical problems found by a 2006 Mount Sinai study, which said 70 percent of ground zero workers suffered new or worsened respiratory problems after their exposure to the debris of the World Trade Center.
Landrigan offered new specifics of the most prevalent symptoms among the police officers, firefighters, construction workers and volunteers examined.
Between April and June of this year, doctors in the 9/11 workers health program overseen by Mount Sinai saw 2,323 patients.
_Lower respiratory problems in 40 percent of patients. Asthma and asthma-like reactive airways disease were found in 30 percent. Smaller portions of patients had chronic cough — 7 percent — or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — 5 percent.
_Upper respiratory conditions in 59 percent. The most common condition was runny nose, in 51 percent of the workers, and chronic sinusitis, in about a fifth of them.
_Mental health problems, the most common being post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, in 36 percent of patients.
Landrigan said it is still unclear how many of those patients will continue to experience such symptoms, or how many may develop new diseases like cancer many years after their exposure.
Lingering 9/11-related illnesses — and deaths of some first responders years after the attacks — have led to calls in Congress for a federal program to fund long-term health programs for those workers.