Prehospital and Disaster Medicine

Original Research

Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses Reported by World Trade Center Response Workers and Volunteers

Kara R. Perritta1 c1, Robin Herberta2, Stephen M. Levina2 and Jacqueline Molinea3

a1 Division of Safety Research, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Morgantown, West Virginia USA

a2 Department of Preventive Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York USA

a3 North Shore University Hospital, North Shore - Long Island Jewish Health System, New York, New York USA

Abstract

Introduction: In 2002, the Mount Sinai Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, with support from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), began coordinating the World Trade Center (WTC) Worker and Volunteer Medical Screening Program (MSP) to monitor the health of qualified WTC responders. Enrolled participants were offered a clinical examination; interviewed to collect medical, mental health, and exposure information; and requested to complete a self-administered medical questionnaire. The objective of this study was to better understand work-related injuries and illnesses sustained on-site by WTC responders.

Methods: A descriptive analysis of select data from the MSP self-administered medical questionnaire was conducted. Data collected July 2002 through April 2004 from MSP participants enrolled at the Mount Sinai clinic were reviewed using univariate statistical techniques.

Results: Records from 7,810 participants were analyzed, with most participants associated with either the construction industry (n = 2,623, 34%) or law enforcement (n = 2,036, 26%). Approximately a third of the participants (n = 2,486, 32%) reported at least one injury or illness requiring medical treatment that was sustained during WTC work/volunteer activities. Of the total 4,768 injuries/illnesses reported by these participants, respiratory complaints were most common (n = 1,350, 28%), followed by traumatic injuries excluding eye injuries (n = 961, 20%), eye injuries/ailments (n = 709, 15%), chest pain (n = 375, 8%), headaches (n = 359, 8%), skin conditions (n = 178, 4%), and digestive system conditions (n = 163, 3%). Participants reported that 36% of injuries/illnesses were treated off-site and 29% were treated on-site, with the remaining not specifying treatment location. Off-site treatment was prevalent for respiratory complaints, psychological stress, and chest pain. On-site treatment was predominate for eye injuries/ailments and traumatic injuries excluding eye injuries.

Conclusion: Study results underscore the need for rapid deployment of personal protective equipment for disaster responders and medical care stations mobilized near disaster worksites. Additionally, the results, many of which are comparable to findings from previous WTC studies where data were collected in real-time, indicate that a screening program such as the MSP may be effective in retrospectively providing general information on disaster responder demographics and work-related injuries and illnesses.

(Received October 24 2011)

(Accepted November 16 2011)

(Revised November 18 2011)

(Online publication March 23 2012)

Correspondence:

c1 Corresponding Author: Kara R. Perritt, MS National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Division of Safety Research, 1095 Willowdale Road, MS 1808, Morgantown, WV 26505 USA, E-mail: kperritt@cdc.gov

Footnotes

Deceased.

Perritt KR, Herbert R, Levin SM, Moline J: Work-related injuries and illnesses reported by World Trade Center response workers and volunteers. Prehosp Disaster Med 2012;26(6):401–407.