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Original research
All-cause and cause-specific mortality in a cohort of WTC-exposed and non-WTC-exposed firefighters


Objective To compare mortality rates in World Trade Center (WTC)-exposed Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) firefighters with rates in similarly healthy, non-WTC-exposed/non-FDNY firefighters, and compare mortality in each firefighter cohort with the general population.

Methods 10 786 male WTC-exposed FDNY firefighters and 8813 male non-WTC-exposed firefighters from other urban fire departments who were employed on 11 September 2001 were included in the analyses. Only WTC-exposed firefighters received health monitoring via the WTC Health Programme (WTCHP). Follow-up began 11 September 2001 and ended at the earlier of death date or 31 December 2016. Death data were obtained from the National Death Index and demographics from the fire departments. We estimated standardised mortality ratios (SMRs) in each firefighter cohort versus US males using demographic-specific US mortality rates. Poisson regression models estimated relative rates (RRs) of all-cause and cause-specific mortality in WTC-exposed versus non-WTC-exposed firefighters, controlling for age and race.

Results Between 11 September 2001 and 31 December 2016, there were 261 deaths among WTC-exposed firefighters and 605 among non-WTC-exposed. Both cohorts had reduced all-cause mortality compared with US males (SMR (95% CI)=0.30 (0.26 to 0.34) and 0.60 (0.55 to 0.65) in WTC-exposed and non-WTC-exposed, respectively). WTC-exposed firefighters also had lower rates of all-cause mortality (RR=0.54, 95% CI=0.49 to 0.59) and cancer-specific, cardiovascular-specific and respiratory disease-specific mortality compared with non-WTC-exposed firefighters.

Conclusion Both firefighter cohorts had lower than expected all-cause mortality. Fifteen years post 11 September 2001, mortality was lower in WTC-exposed versus non-WTC-exposed firefighters. Lower mortality in the WTC-exposed suggests not just a healthy worker effect, but additional factors such as greater access to free health monitoring and treatment that they receive via the WTCHP.

  • occupational health
  • mortality
  • epidemiology
  • firefighters

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. Reasonable request for deidentified data will be considered by the investigators, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the National Death Index.

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