Researchers identify 9/11-related lung ailment

Published 14 May 2007

High rates of sarcoidosis in the first year for firefighters at the World Trade Center

Every precocious fourth grader knows the longest word in the English language: Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. “A factitious word alleged to mean ‘a lung disease caused by the inhalation of very fine silica dust usually found in volcanos,’” according the Oxford English Dictionary. The condition is colleguially known as black lung disease, and it mainly effects coal miners. (“Factitious” because, as Wikipedia explains, “the word was coined for the purpose of serving as the longest English word.”) We have no reason to have gone through all this history, except to note that a recent medical stiudy found a common lung ailment among responders to the World Trade Center site on 9/11.

All told, thirteen emergency personnel in the New York Fire Department developed sarcoidosis, “a debilitating illness in which the lungs and other organs develop inflammation that produces lumps of cells, called granulomas,” the New York Times reported. For the first year, researchers at the Albert Einstein Medical College calculated an incidence rate in the first year of 86 cases per 100,000 workers — five times higher than the rate for the previous fifteen years. In the following years, these rates declined to 22 per 100,000, “with no more than four cases each yeear.” So far, none of the victms have died, and ten are either on disability or applying for it.