(HealthDay News) — Workers with prolonged exposure at the World Trade Center (WTC) site following 9/11 are at increased risk of developing systemic autoimmune diseases, according to a study published online March 16 in Arthritis & Rheumatology.
Mayris P. Webber, Dr.P.H., from the Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y., and colleagues individually matched each rheumatologist-confirmed autoimmune case diagnosed between 9/12/2001 and 9/11/2013 (59 patients) among those with acute or chronic exposure at the WTC site to four randomly selected controls (236 individuals). The controls were matched for year of hire, gender, race, and work assignment (firefighter or emergency medical service).
The researchers found that rheumatoid arthritis (37 percent) was the most common autoimmune diagnosis, followed by spondyloarthritis (22 percent), inflammatory myositis (14 percent), systemic lupus erythematosus (12 percent), systemic sclerosis (5 percent), and Sjögrens syndrome (5 percent). For each additional month worked at the site, the conditional odds ratio of autoimmune disease increased by 13 percent and was independent of the association between high acute exposure (working during the morning of 9/11/2001) and disease outcome. High acute exposure was associated with elevated disease risk, but was not statistically significant (conditional odds ratio, 1.85; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.86 to 3.89).
“The WTC Health Program should expand surveillance efforts for those with extended exposures as early detection can facilitate early treatment, which has been shown to minimize organ damage and improve quality of life,” the authors write.