New study by the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene finds increased risk of asthma in Ground Zero workers (story in New York Times). Ground Zero workers have a 12 times greater chance of developing asthma than the general popluation. The risk of developing asthma is greater in those who were at the site initially, when the smoke and dust clouds were thick and few respirators were available, as well as in those who stayed at the site longer, suggesting the risk is dose related.
One of the authors of the study concluded that the study corroborates the other studies regarding Ground Zero workers, that have found the workers are at an increased risk for lung disease because of their exposures at the site. The author suggests that every worker should be enrolled in a medical monitoring program or under a physician’s care.
The study also found respirators provided a moderate amount of protection for the workers. But, the study found that even among workers who reported wearing masks, the incidence of asthma was increased. The study found that paper masks and utuility masks did not prevent the inhalation of toxic dust in the workers who wore such masks, which explained the increased risk in these workers.