BACKGROUND: In 1992, a cargo aircraft crashed into apartment buildings in Amsterdam, killing 43 victims and destroying 266 apartments. In the aftermath there were speculations about the cause of the crash, potential exposures to hazardous materials due to the disaster and the health consequences. Starting in 2000, the Epidemiological Study Air Disaster in Amsterdam (ESADA) aimed to assess the long-term health effects of occupational exposure to this disaster on professional assistance workers.
METHODS/DESIGN: Epidemiological study among all the exposed professional fire-fighters and police officers who performed disaster-related task(s), and hangar workers who sorted the wreckage of the aircraft, as well as reference groups of their non-exposed colleagues who did not perform any disaster-related tasks. The study took place, on average, 8.5 years after the disaster. Questionnaires were used to assess details on occupational exposure to the disaster. Health measures comprised laboratory assessments in urine, blood and saliva, as well as self-reported current health measures, including health-related quality of life, and various physical and psychological symptoms.
DISCUSSION: In this paper we describe and discuss the design of the ESADA. The ESADA will provide additional scientific knowledge on the long-term health effects of technological disasters on professional workers.