Inhalation of dust and smoke can manifest as new symptoms, pulmonary function abnormalities or exacerbate existing conditions. Psychological trauma experienced at the WTC disaster site may also affect symptoms. This study’s aim is to evaluate symptoms, pulmonary function and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in officers involved in the rescue effort at the WTC site.
A questionnaire was administered to officers who served at the site to assess respiratory symptoms. An impact event scale™ (IES) and profile mood scale (POMS) to detect PTSD was administered and spirometry (PFT) was performed.
Eighty-two officers participated, 71 males, 11 females. Their mean age was 40.1 (SD 6.03). Sixty-five percent were Caucasian, 20% African-American, 13% Hispanic and 2% Asian. Fifty-seven (70%) were at the site within two hours of collapse, 17 (20%) were present within 24 hours.Dyspnea was the primary symptom in 91% of officers following their service . The FEV-1/FVC was reduced in 61% (p< 0.05). A lower FEV-1/FVC was seen in those working closer to the collapse (p< 0.05), a lower FEV-1 was seen in those working more days at the site (p< 0.05). The group’s POMS showed elevated fatigue and low vigor scores. The IES showed 74% had at least one, and 24% had up to 9 PTSD symptoms (p< 0.05).CONCLUSIONS: Pulmonary function abnormalities although significant do not entirely explain dyspnea in our study. PFT reductions were observed in officers serving closer to and more days at the collapse site. Psychological abnormalities and PTSD symptoms increased with the number of days at the sites. Satisfaction with health was lower in officers than the general NY population.
Distance from the collapse site and total days spent at the site correlated with reductions in FEV-1 and FEV-1/FVC. The reductions are small and do not entirely explain dyspnea. A propensity for PTSD and dissatisfaction with health exist. The POMS and IES are useful in identifying PTSD symptoms which may be perceived as dyspnea.
W.J. Leon, None.