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Long term health complaints following the Amsterdam Air Disaster in police officers and fire-fighters
  1. A C Huizink1,
  2. P Slottje3,
  3. A B Witteveen2,
  4. J A Bijlsma2,
  5. J W R Twisk2,
  6. N Smidt2,
  7. I Bramsen2,
  8. W van Mechelen3,
  9. H M van der Ploeg4,
  10. L M Bouter2,
  11. T Smid5
  1. 1Erasmus Medical Center, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Rotterdam, Netherlands
  2. 2Institute for Research in Extramural Medicine, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  3. 3Department of Public and Occupational Health, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  4. 4Department of Medical Psychology, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  5. 5KLM Health and Safety, Schiphol Airport, Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr A C Huizink
 Erasmus Medical Center, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, WK-219, PO Box 2060, 3000 CB Rotterdam, Netherlands; a.c.huizink{at}


Background: On 4 October 1992, a cargo aircraft crashed into apartment buildings in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Fire-fighters and police officers assisted with the rescue work.

Objectives: To examine the long term health complaints in rescue workers exposed to a disaster.

Methods: A historical cohort study was performed among police officers (n = 834) and fire-fighters (n = 334) who performed at least one disaster related task and reference groups of their non-exposed colleagues (n = 634 and n = 194, respectively). The main outcome measures included digestive, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, nervous system, airway, skin, post-traumatic stress, fatigue, and general mental health complaints; haematological and biochemical laboratory values; and urinalysis outcomes.

Results: Police officers and fire-fighters who were professionally exposed to a disaster reported more physical and mental health complaints, compared to the reference groups. No clinically relevant statistically significant differences in laboratory outcomes were found.

Conclusions: This study is the first to examine long term health complaints in a large sample of rescue workers exposed to a disaster in comparison to reference groups of non-exposed colleagues. Findings show that even in the long term, and in the absence of laboratory abnormalities, rescue workers report more health complaints.

  • health effects
  • long-term
  • disaster
  • rescue workers

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  • Published Online First 27 April 2006

  • Funding: the study was funded by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports, the City of Amsterdam, the regional police force Amsterdam-Amstelland, and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

  • Competing interests: none

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