Comparing self-reported obstructive airway disease in firefighters with and without World Trade Center exposure

Alexandra K. Mueller, Ankura Singh, Mayris P. Webber, Charles B. Hall, David J. Prezant, Rachel Zeig-Owens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: The degree to which routine, non-World Trade Center (WTC) firefighting exposures contribute to the WTC exposure-obstructive airway disease (OAD) relationship is unknown. Our objective was to compare the frequency of self-reported OAD diagnoses in WTC-exposed firefighters from the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) compared with non-WTC-exposed firefighters from other cities and the general population. Methods: A total of 9792 WTC-exposed male FDNY firefighters and 3138 non-WTC-exposed male firefighters from Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco who were actively employed on 9/11/01 and completed a health questionnaire were included. Logistic regression estimated odds ratios of self-reported asthma and COPD diagnoses in firefighters (WTC-exposed vs. non-WTC-exposed; all firefighters vs. general population), adjusting for age, race, smoking status, and last medical visit. Results: WTC-exposed firefighters were, on average, younger on 9/11 (mean ± SD = 40.2 ± 7.4 vs. 44.1 ± 9.1) and less likely to report ever-smoking (32.9% vs. 41.8%) than non-WTC-exposed firefighters. Odds of any OAD and asthma were 4.5 and 6.3 times greater, respectively, in WTC-exposed versus non-WTC-exposed. Odds of COPD were also greater in WTC-exposed versus non-WTC-exposed, particularly among never-smokers. Compared with the general population, WTC-exposed firefighters had greater odds of both asthma and COPD, while the nonexposed had lower odds of asthma and greater odds of COPD. Conclusions: Odds ratios for OAD diagnoses were greater in WTC-exposed firefighters versus both non-WTC-exposed and the general population after adjusting for covariates. While asthma and other OADs are known occupational hazards of firefighting, WTC exposure significantly compounded these adverse respiratory effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-251
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Industrial Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • COPD
  • World Trade Center
  • asthma
  • firefighters
  • obstructive airway disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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