Ten Years After 9/11, EPA Still Makes People Sick

Ground Zero September 13, 2001 (photo by Andrea Booher via wikipedia.org)

From a House Resolution on the 10th anniversary of 9/11:

Whereas memorials have been constructed… so that Americans and people from around the world can visit to mourn those lost and to pay tribute to the heroic action and sacrifice of those who have served our communities and our country in the years since the attacks;

Commentary on the resolution from Activistpost.com:

First responders who risked their lives were first deceived about the air quality by the EPA, made to fight and beg for sufficient health care, run through a terror watch list, and have been denied a place at (sic) 10th Anniversary Ceremony, which is supposedly being given to honor courage and resolve.  Quite a tribute!

Ten years after the attacks of 9/11, the EPA is still sickening New Yorkers – both figuratively and literally.

In the days following September 11, 2001, Christine Todd Whitman, who at the time administered the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA, assured Lower Manhattan residents and first responders that the air quality at Ground Zero was safe, with negligible amounts of toxic substances such as asbestos.

A 2003 report by the EPA’s inspector general concluded that the agency did not have the necessary data to make that call – and did so under pressure from the White House to present a reassuring public image.

An article in Friday’s New York Times reports that, although the EPA says they’ve learned from mistakes made in the aftermath of 9/11, critics – including Representative Jerrold Nadler – remain unconvinced that the EPA has made the necessary changes.

To the contrary, local elected officials and government watchdogs say the EPA has made virtually no changes to its standard operating procedures, changes that could prevent the same thing from happening in the event of another attack.

From NY Times:

“Had Christine Todd Whitman and the White House not lied about the safety of the air a lot of people would not be sick today,” said New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D), who has led congressional efforts on the 9/11 air contamination.
Asked if EPA has put a better system in place, Nadler said: “I’m not confident that there would be much change. … They have not made systematic changes that I’m aware of.”

Whitman, who left EPA in 2003 and is doing quite well for herself sitting on the Board of Directors for at least two corporations – in addition to collecting multiple pensions, said in an e-mail to the Times that the agency has made the necessary changes:

“EPA was the first agency to do a ‘lessons learned’ after the crises to determine and strengthen what we did well, as well as identify what we could have done better and make any changes needed,” Whitman said in an email.

However, the Times notes that, while the EPA has done some streamlining by eliminating redundant departments, the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility or PEER, strongly criticized EPA just last Thursday for continuing to maintain a “woefully lax” air quality standard that helped lead to post 9/11 health problems.

PEER points out that one current EPA standard, for a corrosive chemical known to have damaged the lungs of first responders, is “ten times more lax” than that set by the U.N. World Health Organization.

The group has filed a petition urging the EPA to tighten the standard, so that first responders could be notified to use the proper equipment to prevent lung damage.

Representative Nadler believes that inaction by the agency since 9/11 might very well be continuing to sicken individuals today.

“There are still probably people being poisoned to this day,” he told the Times.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler represents New York’s 8th Congressional District, which includes Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, SoHo, Greenwich Village, TriBeCa, the Financial District and Battery Park City.  In Brooklyn, the 8th District includes parts of Borough Park, Red Hook, Sunset Park, Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Gravesend, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach and Seagate.


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