BACKGROUND: In 1992 a cargo aircraft crashed into apartment buildings in Amsterdam. In the troublesome aftermath rumours emerged on potential toxic exposures and health consequences. The aim of this study is to assess the long-term impact of this disaster on the health-related quality of life (HRQoL) of professional assistance workers.
METHODS: Historic cohort study, using questionnaires to assess occupational disaster exposure, HRQoL (SF36), and background variables, at on average 8.5 years post-disaster. Participating were the exposed professional firefighters (n = 334) and police officers (n = 834) who reported disaster-related task(s), and their non-exposed colleagues who did not report such tasks (n = 194, and n = 634, respectively).
RESULTS: Multivariate logistic regression analysis showed that exposed workers reported a significantly lower physical HRQoL and vitality than non-exposed workers. Exposed police officers also reported a lower mental HRQoL. Among exposed workers, a lower HRQoL was reported significantly more often by workers who had a close one affected by the disaster; by firefighters who rescued people, cleaned-up, or witnessed the immediate disaster scene; and by police officers who supported the injured. Exposed police officers who perceived the disaster as 'not bad' reported a lower HRQoL less often than those to whom it was 'the worst ever'.
CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates that professional disaster assistance workers are at risk for a lower HRQoL, even after years.