The incidence, prevalence, and severity of sarcoidosis in New York City firefighters

David J. Prezant, Atheya Dhala, Andrew Goldstein, Denise Janus, Felipe Ortiz, Thomas K. Aldrich, Kelly J. Kelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

133 Scopus citations


Objective: The etiology of sarcoidosis is unknown, but epidemiology suggests that environmental agents are a factor. Because firefighters are exposed to numerous toxins, we questioned whether sarcoidosis was increased in this cohort. Setting: The New York City Fire Department (FDNY), employing > 11,000 firefighters and nearly 3,000 emergency medical services (EMS) health-care workers (HCWs). Design: In 1985, FDNY initiated a surveillance program to determine the incidence, prevalence, and severity of biopsy-proven sarcoidosis in firefighters. In 1995, EMS HCWs were added as control subjects. Results: Between 1985 and 1998, 4 prior cases and 21 new cases of sarcoidosis were found in FDNY firefighters. Annual incidence proportions ranged from 0 to 43.6/100,000, and averaged 12.9/100,000. On July 1, 1998, the point prevalence was 222/100,000. For EMS HCWs, annual incidence proportions were zero. Radiographic stage 0 or stage 1 sarcoidosis was found in 19 firefighters (76%), and stage 3 was found in 1 firefighter (4%). Pulmonary function (FVC, FEV1, and diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide) was normal in 17 firefighters (68%), and reduced to ≤ 65% predicted in 2 firefighters (8%). Maximum oxygen consumption (MV̇O2) was normal in 10 of 17 firefighters (59%), and reduced to 65% predicted in 3 firefighters (12%). Five of seven firefighters (71%) with abnormal MV̇O2 had gas exchange abnormalities, and none had O2 desaturation. All returned to fire fighting. Conclusions: Annual incidence proportions and point prevalence were increased in FDNY firefighters as compared to EMS HCWs and historical controls. Radiographs and physiologic measurements demonstrated only minimal impairment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1183-1193
Number of pages11
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1999


  • Exercise testing
  • Firefighters
  • Pulmonary function
  • Sarcoidosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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