More than 400 New York City firefighters and police officers lost their lives as a result of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center (WTC). Many other people at the scene that day and in the weeks that followed also witnessed horrific events at close range, including the loss of colleagues and the gruesome recovery and removal of body parts.
In addition, more than 91,000 rescue, recovery and clean-up workers, and volunteers—including virtually all of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY)—were exposed to the environmental hazards at Ground Zero during their work on “the pile” and at other WTC-related locations in the days and months that followed.
Nearly 4 percent of the 25,000 rescue and recovery workers enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Registry report developing asthma after working at the WTC site according to a survey conducted in 2003 and 2004. This rate is higher than what normally would be expected for the adult population during such a time period. Analysis of survey data indicated that arriving soon after the buildings collapsed, or working on the WTC pile over a long period, increased the workers’ risk of developing asthma. Workers who arrived on September 11, 2001, and worked more than 90 days reported the highest rate of new asthma (7%).9
FDNY members, nearly all of whom responded to Ground Zero within the first week of the attacks, suffered the most intense degree of exposure to the toxic mix of dust and chemicals at Ground Zero. Studying the effects of this exposure on FDNY members has been easier because they are required to undergo pre-employment physicals and receive annual medical check-ups as part of their jobs.
The WTC Health Program and the WTC Health Registry have also studied the health effects of 9/11 among rescue and recovery workers. There are more than 30,000 WTC rescue and recovery workers enrolled in the Registry throughout the country.