It is a truly appalling spectacle to watch former EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman and New York City officials pass the buck for the deadly 9-11 health fallout back and forth like a shuttlecock. Whitman said in a “60 Minutes” interview to be aired this weekend that the EPA did not have authority over the Ground Zero site, and claimed she provided an accurate assessment of the air quality following the attacks. She distinguished between the air in lower Manhattan, which was considered safe, and the air at Ground Zero, which was not. “The readings [in lower Manhattan] were showing us that there was nothing that gave us any concern about long-term health implications,” she said. “That was different from on the pile itself, at ground zero. There, we always said consistently, ‘You’ve got to wear protective gear.'” (AP, Sept. 8)
But this a bogus defense, given that she failed to make this rather critical distinction at the time. New York Newsday saves this Sept. 18, 2001 Whitman quote from the Memory Hole:
“We are very encouraged that the results from our monitoring of air quality and drinking water conditions in both New York and near the Pentagon show that the public in these areas is not being exposed to excessive levels of asbestos or other harmful substances. I am glad to reassure the people of New York and Washington DC that their air is safe to breathe and their water is safe to drink.”
Yet she has the chutzpah to tell “60 Minutes”: “We never lied.” Ommission is a form of lying, Christine. Ask any lawyer.
Meanwhile, New York City legal counsel Michael Cardozo responded that “the City of New York did everything within its power to protect those who participated in the recovery effort.” Fortunately, Newsday also saves this Sept. 28, 2001 gem from the much-lionized Rudolph Giuliani, mayor at the time of the attacks, revealing him as perfectly complicit in the EPA’s cover-up:
“Although they occasionally will have an isolated reading with an unacceptable level of asbestos…it’s very occassional and very irsolated. The air quality is safe and acceptable.”
The dust-up comes days after a study of nearly 9,500 police officers, paramedics, construction workers and others who toiled at Ground Zero was released by physicians at Mount Sinai Medical Center. The study finds that seven out of 10 first responders and workers who were at Ground Zero suffer from chronic lung ailments that probably will be lifelong. The study represents the first scientific evidence linking Ground Zero dust and debris to health woes, vindicating doctors and patients who for years insisted the connection was undeniable.
The study focused mostly on so-called “World Trade Center cough,” the primary concern of health experts and advocates. Doctors at Mount Sinai also said they expect to find disproportionate cancer among the study’s participants in the years to come.
“There should no longer be any doubt about the health effects of the World Trade Center. Our patients are sick,” said Dr. Robin Herbert, co-director of the World Trade Center Worker and Volunteer Medical Screening Program at Mount Sinai.
Herbert was joined at a news conference announcing the findings by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Reps. Jerold Nadler (D-Manhattan) and Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan), and other officials, who said the federal government must respond with programs to cover the health-related costs of the sick workers. (Newsday, Sept. 6)
More info at 9-11 Environmental Action.
See our last report on how New York’s heroes are getting screwed.