Lung-Scarring Disease on the Rise Among Firefighters

May 14, 2007
A new onset of sarcoidosis – a once rare but serious lung-scarring condition – is on the rise among Ground Zero firefighters, according to a new clinical study. The study is said to be the first to link the disease with World Trade Center dust.

Researchers from the Fire Department of New York's (FDNY) Bureau of Health Services, New York University and Albert Einstein College of Medicine compared the annual incidence rates of sarcoidosis in the 15 years before the collapse of the World Trade Center to the 5 years since 9/11. All of the firefighters were enrolled in FDNY's WTC Monitoring and Treatment Programs and underwent chest CT imaging, pulmonary function testing, provocative challenge and biopsy.

The nine authors of the study, headed by Dr. David Prezant, found that Ground Zero firefighters and rescue workers contracted sarcoidosis at a significantly higher rate than in the years previous to 9/11. They calculated that the post-9/11 incidence rate has been 86 cases per 100,000 workers – which is five times higher than the rate of sarcoidosis before the attack, which was 15 per 100,000.

26 Cases of Sarcoidosis Identified Since 9/11

In total, 26 cases of sarcoidosis have been identified after Sept. 11, according to the study. Thirteen were diagnosed in the first year after the attack and the other 13 were diagnosed afterward. The reported stated that none of the 26 firefighters have died from the disease, but five firefighters currently are unable to work.

Sarcoidosis, which can be life-threatening, is characterized by inflammation in the lungs and other organs that causes the formation of lumps of cells called granulomas.

This study appears in the May issue of CHEST, the peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Chest Physicians.

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