Emergency Personnel: Unintentional Occupational Exposure to Opioids

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Sophia K. Chiu, MD

Epidemic Intelligence Service, CDC
Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations, and Field Studies
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
CDC 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response:  Responders across the United States are reporting work-related health effects during incidents in which suspected opioids (including fentanyl) and other illicit drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, cathinones, and synthetic cannabinoids are present, often as a mixture. These health effects have interfered with responders’ ability to perform their job duties.

Since 2018, a number of responder organizations have requested that NIOSH investigate the health effects experienced by emergency responders during these response incidents. These organizations are looking for ways to protect their responders and prevent the symptoms responders have reported experiencing, so that they can in turn better serve the public. NIOSH’s goal is to increase awareness among responders of how they can remain safe while providing the care the public needs.

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World Trade Center Emergency Workers At High Risk Of Health Conditions

Dr Mayris P Webber Dr.PH. MPH Bureau of Health Services Fire Department of the City of New York Brooklyn, NY Professor of Clinical Epidemiology & Population Health Montefiore Medical Center NYMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr Mayris P Webber Dr.PH. MPH

Bureau of Health Services Fire Department of the City of New York Brooklyn, NY
Professor of Clinical Epidemiology & Population Health
Montefiore Medical Center NY

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Webber:

  • To date, we and others have found adverse health outcomes associated with World Trade Center (WTC)  exposure among New York City’s first responders such as firefighters, police officers, and other rescue and recovery workers. We conducted the first study to concentrate on the health impact of the disaster on emergency medical service (EMS) workers.
  • In keeping with previous research on WTC’s first responders, we found that the WTC attacks adversely affected the physical and mental health of approximately 2,000 New York City Fire Department (FDNY) EMS who performed rescue and recovery work at the site.
  • We analyzed selected physical and mental health conditions that have been certified as being linked to the aftermath of the WTC attacks under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010.
  • Over a 12 year period, between September 11 2001 and December 31 2013, the proportion of newly diagnosed cases of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) was 12.1%; obstructive airways disease (OAD) 11.8%; rhinosinusitis 10.6%; and cancer 3.1%.
  • In their most recent mental health survey, nearly 17% of EMS workers reported symptoms consistent with depression; 7% with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); and 3% with harmful alcohol use.
  • Compared with EMS workers who did not work at the WTC site, EMS workers who worked at the WTC site in the morning of 9/11 (i.e., most intensely exposed) were at greatest risk for nearly all of the health conditions analyzed.
  • For example, they were almost four times as likely to have GERD and rhinosinusitis, seven times as likely to have probable PTSD, and twice as likely to have probable depression. (We use the term probable because we used screening questionnaires instead of professional diagnoses for these mental health conditions).

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