Background: Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) are the most effective anti-inflammatory treatment for asthmatics. This trial evaluated the effects of prophylactic ICS in firefighters exposed to the World Trade Center disaster.
Methods: Inhaled budesonide via a dry powder inhaler (Pulmicort Turbuhaler, AstraZeneca, Wilmington, DE) was offered on-site to New York City firefighters between September 18 and 25, 2001. One to 2 years later, firefighters (n = 64) who completed 4 weeks of daily ICS treatment were evaluated and compared with an age- and exposure-matched comparison group (n = 72) who did not use ICS.
Results: When spirometry results at the final visit were compared with those from the weeks following the 9/11 disaster, the treatment group had a greater increase in forced vital capacity (P = .009) and possibly a slower decline in forced expiratory volume at 1 second (P = .11), as well as a greater improvement in perceived well-being as assessed by the St George's Respiratory Questionnaire (P < .01). There was no difference in airway hyperreactivity and no evidence of adverse effects from ICS.
Conclusions: Because the potential for hazardous exposures is great at many disasters, disease prevention programs based on environmental controls and respiratory protection are warranted immediately. Our results suggest that, pending further study with a larger sample, prophylactic ICS should be considered, along with respiratory protection, to minimize possible lung insult. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2008;2:33–39)