FOREWORD: by Dr. Robert Bard
The medical community has repeatedly referenced 9/11 cases as one of our top environmental contaminants to some of the most extreme health disorders. From acute traumas to aerodigestive disorders to musculoskeletal injuries and autoimmune diseases to a seemingly endless list of cancers, the Center for Disease Control CDC) generated extensive reports about every known illness from the disaster zone.
First responders are known to have the highest exposure to so many health risks and may even multiple symptoms that’s easily misdiagnosed. For example, ASTHMA is known to have symptoms such as wheezing and coughing- but so many other disorders mimic asthma this way-- including GERD, COPD, Congestive Heart Failure and Brocheogenic Carcinoma just to name a few. With the right diagnostic tools & techniques, they can all be properly identified and treated correctly.
From the general practitioner to epidemiologists, pathologists and imaging specialists, the rule of Diagnostic Science requires the same organized mapping of what to look at first- and HOW to procceed. We often decipher a patient’s illness the same way a detective would a crime scene whereby chronic disorders need to be assessed from various angles (internally and externally). Thanks to the society of toxicologists, we have identified the first culprit which are the TOXINS from the “pile” (see the report of Professor D. Purser about “toxic fires’). Next would be a broad to narrow diagnostic plan such as the use of radiological imaging scans (x-rays, pet scans, lung ultrasound, MRI etc.) and then to more targeted respiratory resistance tests.
ASTHMA: A MAJOR PREVALENCE WITH FIRST 9/11 RESPONDERS
Fact: no two individuals are ever the same especially when it comes to the physiological effects of envrionmental health hazards- such as those from a disaster zone like Ground Zero. We have all seen countless cases of health issues appearing for the first time 10-15 years after 2001, and the same includes respiratory disorders like ASTHMA.
Where logic may dictate that the giant plume of noxious dust should equate to a widepsread case of pulmonary issues within moments of contact, physicians have observed a variety of effects depending on body types (reflecting genetic makeup) or possibly a unique tolerance level that may actually resist or even 'hide' any symptoms until well past a decade from the exposure. Others may even continue to show zero evidence of negative effects at all (or for now).
"THE TELLTALE COUGH"- EXPLAINED
According to Dr. Paul Schulster, (pulmonologist from Oceanside, NY) the COUGH can say a lot, but often misleads the patient as a "nothing" or a "simple little cough". For firefighters, it is usually a telltale sign of various possible issues. The first syndrome often comes from a post-nasal drip. The second most common cause is from irritation, inflammation and bronchiospasm. Third is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. My 9/11-related patients that have GERD starts with that warning cough while others' coughs can trigger the asthma. Finally, Irritative Cough Syndrome can also happen where one cough leads to another cough, irritating the airway, exacerbating another cough - and then another.
Having a cough here or a wheeze there is not enough for most first responders to raise the flag of alarm. Seasoned specialists like Dr. Schulster recognizes that unique and unusual symptoms or maladies do not reach the patient's consciousness for quite some time. Ignoring or not paying more attention to these "little" anomalies tend to often be the norm. These coughs may progressively grow worse over the years and then one day they begin to wheeze a little more than usual and wind up with advancing shortness of breath. Once this becomes significant and finally enters their consciousness, only then will the thought of seeking medical help actually come to mind.
Oftentimes, an exam from the pulmonologist starts with the CAT scans of the chest. The firefighters are being tracked for pulmonary nodules. They're referred to as sub-centimeter nodules, which are so small that you can't read it. "You don't really see them on a plain X-ray, chest X-rays, PA and lateral. A lot of these first responders already come to me with CAT scans from the past and have been followed by World Trade Center program and the FDNY doctors that are also pulmonary doctors"- states Dr. Schulster.
In a pulmonologist's tool kit exists certain standard pulmonary function examss- including the SPIROMETRY . This test estimates the narrowing of your bronchial tubes by checking how much air you can exhale after a deep breath and how fast you can breathe out . This allows us to see the best way of determining the lung function in numbers, more or less, is a complete pulmonary function test. Next is the METHACHOLINE CHALLENGE  - also known as an asthma trigger that, when inhaled, will cause mild constriction of your airways. If you react to the methacholine, you likely have asthma. This test may be used even if your initial lung function test is normal.  Another test used is THE COLD AIR CHALLENGE . The patients generally come with having had those in the past and most are positive for asthma. In the asthmatics.
Inevitably, multiple poisons inhaled in 'the pile' trigger disorders that are obtained on a longterm basis. The isocyanates and the aldehyde may trigger the asthma, "but I'm not certain if we really know the specific cause of their 9/11 based asthma. There's a long list of toxins that irritate and inflame. The probable causes of Asthma are either chronic of acute inflammation. As they breathed in the 9/11 dust, they breathed in 30 of those toxins, causing inflammation in the airways which then led to chronic reactions."
The sub-centimeter nodules seems to be frequent with 9/11 responders. The good news is that most of them turn out to be benign. One follows these nodules for a couple of years with images and CAT scans because they're often too small to really see on plain chest X-rays. And if they remain the same size, they get smaller over a few years, then they're considered benign. And then that's how we deal with it.
Concluding Dr. Schulster's interview, we found that identifying a chronic respiratory disorder like Asthma can be quite involved that there are various diagnostic solutions and treatment options available depending on its classification or severity. Especially in the case of a first responder's long-term exposure to toxic fumes, recognizing the source(s) of contamination can greatly help the physician establish the proper treatment strategy for the patient.
EXTRA: ASTHMA TREATMENT OPTIONS
Prevention and long-term control are key in stopping asthma attacks before they start. Treatment usually involves learning to recognize your triggers, taking steps to avoid them and tracking your breathing to make sure your daily asthma medications are keeping symptoms under control. In case of an asthma flare-up, you may need to use a quick-relief inhaler, such as albuterol.
The right medications for you depend on a number of things — your age, symptoms, asthma triggers and what works best to keep your asthma under control. Preventive, long-term control medications reduce the inflammation in your airways that leads to symptoms. Quick-relief inhalers (bronchodilators) quickly open swollen airways that are limiting breathing. In some cases, allergy medications are necessary. Long-term asthma control medications, generally taken daily, are the cornerstone of asthma treatment. These medications keep asthma under control on a day-to-day basis and make it less likely you'll have an asthma attack. See complete list of TREATMENT options and full descriptions @ MAYO CLINIC's website:
STAFF EDITOR / CO-PUBLISHER
Robert L. Bard, MD, PC, DABR, FASLMS is internationally recognized as a leader in the field of 21st Century 3-D ULTRASONOGRAPHIC VOLUMETRIC DOPPLER IMAGING. Dr. Bard specializes in advanced 3-D sonography to detect cancers in numerous organs including the breast, prostate, skin, thyroid, melanoma and other areas. Dr. Bard’s images are used to accurately guide biopsies, target therapy and provide focused follow-up after treatment. Dr. Bard currently runs a private consulting practice in New York City. He appears frequently on regional television, national radio and is a consultant to major healthcare organizations. He is committed to improving non-invasive cancer testing and developing minimally invasive image guided technologies to prevent cancer spread through his foundation - The Biofoundation for Angiogenesis Research and Development.
CONTRIBUTING 9/11 PHOTOGRAPHER
KEVIN P. COUGHLIN is a Pulitzer Prize-sharing photojournalist, writer, director of photography, pilot, and aerial cinematographer. He is the current executive photographer to New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. His photographs at Ground Zero following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and while covering funerals and memorial services of fallen fire fighters, police officers, and emergency personnel killed as a result of the attacks are included in the 2002 Pulitzer Prize awarded to The New York Times for Public Service. In addition to The New York Times, his photographs have appeared in the New York Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, https://www.kevincoughlinphotography.com/
PROFESSIONAL INTERVIEWED IN THIS ARTICLE
PAUL L. SCHULSTER, MD PC is a practicing Pulmonary Disease Specialist in Oceanside, NY. Dr. Schulster graduated from University of Kentucky College of Medicine in 1972 and has been in practice for 47 years. He completed a residency at Queens Hospital Center. Dr. Schulster also specializes in Internal Medicine. Dr. Schulster also practices at South Nassau Community Hospital. One Healthy Way Oceanside NY. His private practice is located at: 442 Waukena Avenue, Oceanside, New York. 11572 | (516) 599-8234
1)The 9/11 Attacks are Still Going On with Asbestos Based Cancers- by: Jesse Stoff: https://patch.com/new-york/huntington/9-11-attacks-are-still-going-asbestos-based-cancers
2) Spirometry: https://www.healthline.com/health/spirometry
3) Methacholine Challenge Test: https://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-procedures-and-tests/methacholine-challenge-test.html
4) Cold Air Challenge: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1526054205000941
5) Asthma/Mayo Clinic Report: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/asthma/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20369660
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