Common Asthma Medication May Increase Protection Against Environmental Hazards Afforded By Respirators Among Firefighters
Firefighters who inhale a commonly prescribed medication for asthma on a daily basis while working in conditions similar to those that were experienced at the World Trade Center disaster site may reduce their risk of lung damage according to research presented at the American College of Chest Physicians (read the press release) by David Prezant, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Office of Medical Affairs and Co-Director WTC Medical Monitoring and Treatment Programs, New York City Fire Department . Combining this treatment with properly fitted respirators could help protect firefighters from developing the kinds of breathing problems so many developed after their response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
"The first line of defense must always be respiratory protection, but inhaled corticosteroids are a useful adjunct, and we would encourage their use to be considered during emergency conditions where rescues must be made and respiratory protections may be less than adequate, or when early symptoms occur," said Dr. Prezant.
158 firefighters completed the recommended four weeks of treatment that FDNY began offering one week after the attacks. Two years later, the treated group had significantly greater declines in respiratory symptoms and greater quality of life than the untreated firefighters even though they reported working more hours without using a respirator.
Dr. Prezant and his co-authors cautioned that larger studies are needed to substantiate the findings. Although more than 2,000 firefighters agreed to take part in the study initially, many did not complete it because they feared taking steroids or didn't see any immediate benefits.