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World Trade Center clean-up workers report acute respiratory problems

Many workers who cleared debris from the site of the World Trade Center attack of September 11 reported acute respiratory symptoms, according to a health assessment conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The investigators believe the respiratory problems may be associated with exposure to dust and airborne contaminants at "Ground Zero." Since the investigators only looked at short-term health effects, they said more research is needed to determine if there is any long-term health risk to the workers. The assessment was conducted in collaboration with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the findings were presented on August 22 at a meeting for members of Teamsters Local 282 and held in Lake Success, New York.

"Many of the workers we assessed reported coughing, wheezing, and sore throats while working at Ground Zero. These symptoms seemed to increase the longer they worked at the site. The good news is that we did not find unhealthy levels of asbestos, but we don't know what the long-term health risks may be regarding exposure to other airborne contaminants at the site," explains Alison S. Geyh, PhD, chief investigator and assistant professor of environmental health sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The exposure and health assessment was conducted between October 2001 and April 2002. The investigators examined the workers' airborne exposures to asbestos, particulate matter, and volatile organic compounds. In October, airborne contaminants were measured at numerous locations at Ground Zero and on truck drivers who hauled wreckage away from the site. The respiratory health of the truck drivers and other debris-removal workers was assessed two months later. At that time, a respiratory health questionnaire was administered to the workers. In addition, lung function was measured using spirometry. Additional airborne contaminants measurements were collected in April and compared to what wa
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Contact: Tim Parsons or Kenna Brigham
paffairs@jhsph.edu
410-955-6878
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
23-Aug-2002


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