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Environ Health Perspect. 2003 December; 111(16): 1906–1911.
PMCID: PMC1241765
Research Article

Biomonitoring of chemical exposure among New York City firefighters responding to the World Trade Center fire and collapse.


The collapse of the World Trade Center (WTC) on 11 September 2001 exposed New York City firefighters to smoke and dust of unprecedented magnitude and duration. The chemicals and the concentrations produced from any fire are difficult to predict, but estimates of internal dose exposures can be assessed by the biological monitoring of blood and urine. We analyzed blood and urine specimens obtained from 321 firefighters responding to the WTC fires and collapse for 110 potentially fire-related chemicals. Controls consisted of 47 firefighters not present at the WTC. Sampling occurred 3 weeks after 11 September, while fires were still burning. When reference or background ranges were available, most chemical concentrations were found to be generally low and not outside these ranges. Compared with controls, the exposed firefighters showed significant differences in adjusted geometric means for six of the chemicals and significantly greater detection rates for an additional three. Arrival time was a significant predictor variable for four chemicals. Special Operations Command firefighters (n = 95), compared with other responding WTC firefighters (n = 226), had differences in concentrations or detection rate for 14 of the chemicals. Values for the Special Operations Command firefighters were also significantly different from the control group values for these same chemicals and for two additional chemicals. Generally, the chemical concentrations in the other firefighter group were not different from those of controls. Biomonitoring was used to characterize firefighter exposure at the WTC disaster. Although some of the chemicals analyzed showed statistically significant differences, these differences were generally small.

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