Disabilities From 9/11 Behind Rising Retirements for NYC Firefighters

Researchers say attacks, aftermath have had 'enormous impact' on responders' health

FRIDAY, Aug. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Health problems linked to the World Trade Center attacks may be spurring an increase in retirements for New York City firefighters, a new study suggests.

As a result of the disability retirements related to the attacks, the FDNY pension system is also dealing with increased costs of $826 million, according to the study, which appeared recently in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

"It is clear that the WTC attack has had an enormous impact on the health of the FDNY workforce and, as a consequence, its pension system," study leader Dr. David J. Prezant, chief medical officer of the FDNY, said in a journal news release.

"Human suffering cannot be measured in dollars alone but does serve as a reminder that recovery efforts, when rescue is no longer possible, should be carried out with special attention to the preservation of health for the responders," he noted.

In the study, Prezant's team looked at the almost 7,800 firefighters who retired from the city's fire department between Sept. 11, 1994 and Sept. 10, 2008, so that they could compare the number of retirements and disability retirements seven years before and seven years after the WTC attacks.

There were 3,261 retirements in the seven years before 9/11 and 1,571 (48 percent) of them were disability retirements, the study found. There were 4,502 retirements in the seven years after 9/11 and 2,970 (66 percent) were disability retirements, of which 1,402 (47 percent) were associated with WTC-related injuries or illness.

The increase in disability-linked retirements in the years after 9/11, which led to the retirement of about 10 percent of the FDNY workforce, was mostly due to respiratory-related illnesses, the researchers said.

More information

The New York State Department of Health outlines WTC health information and studies.

Robert Preidt SOURCE: American Journal of Industrial Medicine, news release, Aug. 12, 2011

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