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Volume 14 No. 05
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Accepted Papers

Scientific Investigations

Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Community Members Exposed to World Trade Center Dust and Fumes

Shilpi Ahuja, MD1; Zhaoyin Zhu, MS2; Yongzhao Shao, PhD2,3; Kenneth I. Berger, MD1; Joan Reibman, MD1,3; Omer Ahmed, MD1
1Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York; 2Department of Population Health, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York; 3Department of Environmental Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York

Study Objectives:

A relationship between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and exposure to the World Trade Center (WTC) dust and fumes has been suggested in responders but little is known about a possible relationship in community members. We characterized sleep studies performed in community members with WTC dust exposure to improve our understanding of the relationship between the diagnosis and severity of OSA and WTC dust exposure in this population.


Single-center, retrospective study of patients enrolled in a clinical treatment program for community members with WTC dust exposure. Patients were included if they had undergone sleep studies for evaluation of possible OSA through September 2016 and provided written informed consent.


The total number of patients included in the analysis was 143. Patients were predominantly male (61%), never smokers (59%) and had a median body mass index of 31 kg/m2. Most reported upper and lower respiratory symptoms. An apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) ≥ 5 events/h was measured in 66% of the patients, and respiratory disturbance index was ≥ 5 events/h in 97%. The proportion of patients with moderate-severe OSA (defined by the AHI 4% criteria) was 50%. Multivariate logistic regression revealed that acute WTC dust cloud exposure was associated with severity but not diagnosis of OSA.


We identified a high rate of OSA in the WTC community cohort who were referred for sleep studies. Exposure to the massive WTC dust cloud caused by the WTC collapse was independently associated with the severity of OSA in this population. This finding highlights the role that environmental exposures may play in the development of OSA.


Ahuja S, Zhu Z, Shao Y, Berger KI, Reibman J, Ahmed O. Obstructive sleep apnea in community members exposed to World Trade Center dust and fumes. J Clin Sleep Med. 2018;14(5):735–743.

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