EPA, Whitman blasted for lies about post 9/11 air quality
Published Feb 17, 2006 10:21 PM
A federal judge blasted the
Environ mental Protection Agency and its former head Christie Whitman on Feb. 4
for issuing public and repeated statements that Lower Manhattan air was safe to
breathe in the days right after 9/11.
Safety and health activists have
long contended that post-9/11 health and environmental risks were not fully
reported. Falling and burning buildings released 2,000 tons of asbestos, lead
from 50,000 computers, 424,000 tons of concrete pulverized into dust,
cancer-causing PCBs and other toxins.
U.S. District Judge Deborah A. Batts
ruled the EPA and Whitman were not protected from a class-action lawsuit filed
by workers, residents and students in Lower Manhattan who returned to
contaminated workplaces, homes and schools after the EPA’s false
assurances. The areas affected also included Chinatown, the Lower East Side and
“No reasonable person would have thought that telling
thousands of people that it was safe to return to lower Manhat tan, while
knowing that such return could pose long-term health risks and other dire
consequences, was conduct sanctioned by our laws,” Judge Batts said. She
found Whitman’s actions “conscience-shocking” because the EPA
chief knew the twin towers’ collapse had generated tons of airborne toxic
The ruling greenlights a lawsuit that seeks a special fund for
medical monitoring and treatment of long-term health effects in non-emergency
workers, residents and students who were exposed to the toxic air and
toxin-laden debris that blanketed the area after 9/11; damages for exposure to
hazardous materials from the World Trade Center collapse; and reimbursement for
Currently only 9/11 rescue and recovery workers are
eligible for medical monitoring and treatment, with 15,000 actually being
But even this group, praised by local and national authorities,
had to fight hard in 2005 to keep the Bush administration from cutting their
program by $125 million—just as some were starting to die from
White House, Wall St.
Some air is bound to be cleared as the lawsuit against EPA goes
forward. But the Bush administration and its capitalist backers on Wall Street
should not be let off the hook.
The White House manipulated EPA statements
and news releases on air quality in the days after Sept. 11, according to an
August 2003 EPA Inspector General report. The Bush spin doctors deleted
cautionary information and added reassurances that the EPA did not have the data
EPA Administrator Marianne Horinko admitted that the Bush
administration used the National Security Council, not environmental or public
health experts, to filter data about Ground Zero air and water quality because
“the thinking was, these were the experts on weapons of mass
destruction.” The White House then coordinated the public release of
information from the NSC and other federal agencies. (Newsday, Aug. 23,
“The agencies have made it a priority to get the lower
Manhattan financial and stock markets up and running at any cost. In so doing,
they have allowed thousands of people to be exposed to substances that
haven’t even all been identified, let alone quantified,” said Joel
Shufro, Executive Director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and
Health, which represents more than 250 unions. (St. Louis Post Dispatch, Jan.
The cooked-up disinformation led people to return to
contaminated areas too soon and at risk to their health. Down on Wall Street,
the financial heart of U. S. capitalism, the Stock Exchange and big corporations
promised workers free lunch and donuts—while toxic fires were still
burning at the site of the Twin Towers.
Articles copyright 1995-2012 Workers World.
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.
Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Email: [email protected]
Subscribe [email protected]
Support independent news DONATE