Firefighters exposed to the World Trade Center site after the 2001 attack are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, according to a new study.
The analysis, published in JAMA Open Network, included 9,796 male firefighters, average age 40 in 2001, who worked at the site after the attack. The researchers followed them for an average of 16 years and during that time recorded 489 cardiovascular events — heart attacks, strokes, heart surgeries and deaths from heart disease.
Those who arrived at the morning of the collapse, when levels of dust and other contaminants was particularly high, were 44 percent more likely to have a cardiovascular event than those who arrived later. And firefighters who spent more than six months at the site were 30 percent more likely to have an event than those who spent less than six months working there.
The study controlled for body mass index, smoking, diabetes, hypertension and other factors, and the researchers concluded that exposure to the site was a risk factor for heart disease about as serious as the risk associated with high blood pressure.
“This is not an epidemic,” said the senior author, Dr. David J. Prezant, chief medical officer of the New York City Fire Department, “but cardiovascular disease is significantly associated with exposure. Exposed firefighters and their health care providers should not assume that chest pain is simply acid reflux or asthma without first making certain that is it not related to cardiovascular disease.”