Permanent Damage

9/11 Workers Can't Breathe

Rescue workers who responded to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center are paying the price for their altruism with breathing problems. A new study by Dr. David Prezant of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, which followed emergency workers for six years, has shown that the lungs of New York Fire Department employees did not rebound after the attacks, rather, their lung capacity has shrunk, typically as if they had aged 12 years. Non-smoking firefighters lost about 25 milliliters of lung capacity each year while emergency medical services personnel lost 40 milliliters, with people who arrived on the scene early on doing worse than those who showed up a day later. While the decline is comparable to that of aging nonsmokers, rescue workers also took a huge initial hit to their lung capacity, and due to the continued decline, many now suffer breathing problems.