A new study appearing in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine says that firefighters at Ground Zero on September 11 had a loss in lung capacity equivalent to what usually happens after 12 years on duty a year after the terror attacks.
An average loss of 372 milliliters was noted, which is equal to 6 percent of the lung's capacity. This loss is at least 10 times more than the annual age-related loss in ordinary persons. But doctors said that with proper monitoring and care, the lung capacities of such 9/11 firefighters could return to normal.
Dr. David J. Prezant, co-director of the Fire Department's World Trade Center Medical Monitoring Program, and an author of the study, said that the lungs would cure and clean themselves up naturally and restore the proper capacity to breathe.
However Stephen J. Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association said that most firefighters were aware of having health problems. "It's not just that firefighters lost 12 years in the blink of an eye," he said. "We're approaching the fifth anniversary, and most firefighters working today wonder where they will be in five years, healthwise."
Dr. Prezant maintains that the dust particles may be exhaled or dissolve over time. Firefighters have till now been given steroids and nasal and pulmonary decongestants. "Anecdotally, I can say that people in the treatment program, especially those who have had early diagnosis and treatment, feel that their lung function is plateauing or improving," he said. "We have not seen further decreases."