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Introduction: Respiratory Health Consequences Resulting from the Collapse of the World Trade Center

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 Read the blog entry by Dr. David Prezant

This week marks seven years since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. These events and the subsequent clean up efforts exposed rescue and recovery workers to unprecedented levels of risk for job-related injury, illness, and death, including exposure to silica dust, asbestos, and other dusts and gases; eye injury from blowing debris; and stress. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) responded swiftly to address workers’ needs in the aftermath of the attacks. NIOSH quickly sent dozens of staff to Ground Zero who applied their technical expertise to help meet immediate worker protection needs including identifying hazards, assisting with the selection and use of appropriate sampling equipment and personal protective equipment, and developing cost-effective procedures for cleaning and sanitizing respirators on-site. Also, by helping workers and supervisors build their own safety and health capacity, NIOSH was able to enhance safety at the sprawling site.

Following our initial response, NIOSH has continued to play an important role by administering federal funds and providing scientific technical assistance that supports the health monitoring and treatment of responders and others who were impacted by the disaster. These efforts are furthering our scientific and clinical understanding of the health burdens and disease trends among those exposed on September 11, 2001, and its tragic aftermath. NIOSH continues to work with its partners to address concerns about potential long-term effects on workers’ health and to help protect workers in the event of future emergencies.

We are fortunate to have our first guest blogger, Dr. David Prezant, Chief Medical Officer and Co-Director of the World Trade Center Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program, in the New York City Fire Department, as a contributor to this topic. Dr. Prezant is an academic leader and a practicing physician, with a specialty in pulmonary medicine, who has made significant and thoughtful contributions to the peer-reviewed scientific literature on the health effects of the World Trade Center workers.

Together we dedicate this blog post to the rescue workers, volunteers, and all those who risked their health and their lives responding to this national crisis.

—Christine M. Branche, Ph.D.

Dr. Branche is the Acting Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

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