The forgotten responders: The ongoing impact of 9/11 on the ground zero recovery workers

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Prehospital and Disaster Medicine


Cambridge University Press


School of Medical and Health Sciences




Smith, E. C., & Burkle, F. M. (2018). The forgotten responders: the ongoing impact of 9/11 on the ground zero recovery workers. Prehospital and disaster medicine, 33(4), 436-440. Available here


In the years following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks (9/11; New York USA), emergency first responders began experiencing a range of physical health and psychosocial impacts. Publications documenting these tended to focus on firefighters, while emerging reports are starting to focus on other first responders, including paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and police. The objective of this research was to explore the long-term impact on another important group of 9/11 responders, the non-emergency recovery workers who responded to the World Trade Center (WTC) site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In the 16 years following 9/11, Ground Zero recovery workers have been plagued by a range of long-term physical impacts, including musculoskeletal injuries, repetitive motion injuries, gait deterioration, and respiratory disorders. Psychosocial issues include posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, insomnia, support system fatigue, and addictive and risk-taking behaviors. These findings go some way to filling the current gap in the understanding on the long-term impact of 9/11 and to provide an important testimony of the “forgotten responders” – the Ground Zero recovery workers.



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