• World Trade Center;
  • Disaster Medicine;
  • Occupational Medicine;
  • Respiratory Disease;
  • Asthma;
  • Chronic Rhinosinusitis;
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux


Respiratory consequences from occupational and environmental disasters are the result of inhalation exposures to chemicals, particulate matter (dusts and fibers) and/or the incomplete products of combusion that are often liberated during disasters such as fires, building collapses, explosions and volcanoes. Unfortunately, experience has shown that environmental controls and effective respiratory protection are often unavailable during the first days to week after a large-scale disaster.

The English literature was reviewed using the key words—disaster and any of the following: respiratory disease, pulmonary, asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, pulmonary fibrosis, or sarcoidosis.

Respiratory health consequences after aerosolized exposures to high-concentrations of particulates and chemicals can be grouped into 4 major caterogies: 1) upper respiratory disease (chronic rhinosinusitis and reactive upper airways dysfunction syndrome), 2) lower respiratory diseases (reactive [lower] airways dysfunction syndrome, irritant-induced asthma, and chronic obstructive airways diseases), 3) parenchymal or interstitial lung diseases (sarcoidosis, pulmonary fibrosis, and bronchiolitis obliterans, and 4) cancers of the lung and pleura.

This review describes several respiratory consequences of occupational and environmental disasters and uses the World Trade Center disaster to illustrate in detail the consequences of chronic upper and lower respiratory inflammation. Mt Sinai J Med 75:89–100, 2008. © 2008 Mount Sinai School of Medicine