In reports dated September 10, 2004, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) summarized the physical and mental health status of workers and volunteers who participated in rescue and recovery activity at the World Trade Center, saying, “These findings suggest a need for continued monitoring and appropriate treatment of WTC responders.”
Researchers summarized examinations of rescuers that were conducted by Mt. Sinai Hospital almost a year after 9/11. Lower respiratory problems afflicted 60 percent of the sample, and 74 percent suffered with upper respiratory problems. Forty-six percent had nasal mucosal inflammation, and 33 percent had abnormal spirometry findings. Low back pain, upper and lower extremity pain, heartburn, eye irritation and frequent headaches were problems for 13 to 16 percent of the sample.
Rescuers also experienced a variety of mental health problems. A majority (51%) met criteria for a clinical mental health evaluation. Six percent reported symptoms of depression, panic and generalized anxiety. Nearly ten percent reported an issue with alcohol dependence or abuse. Many reported emotional problems with social life (15%), work (14%) and home life (13%). Approximately 20 percent reported symptoms meeting thresholds for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Of the sample, 46 percent worked at the WTC site on 9/11, and 84 percent worked between September 11 and 14, when exposure to dust and smoke was most severe. Only 21 percent reported using appropriate (full or half-face) respiratory equipment. Most (91%) were male and non-Hispanic whites (58%). Blacks (11%) and Hispanics (15%) were substantial minorities. The median age was 41. Eighty nine percent were union members. The median length of time working on the clean-up was 966 hours (approximately four months of 8-hour workdays).