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Whitman and Giuliani lied

9/11 dust ‘as caustic as drain cleaner’

Published Sep 14, 2006 9:32 AM

To the list of liars who used the World Trade Center disaster to serve their political agendas, add the names of Christine Todd Whitman and Rudolph Giuliani.

Whitman, a multi-millionaire and darling of the New Jersey country club set, was the appointed head of the Environ mental Protection Agency at the time. She emphatically told the public that it was safe to work and breathe the air around Ground Zero.

Giuliani, then mayor, backed up her story. Today he is looking for sympathy over possible health problems related to his going there.

After the disaster, some 40,000 people worked in the area of the Trade Center or at the Fresh Kills site on Staten Island where the debris from the buildings was dumped. Some were early responders looking for survivors or clearing rubble. Others were hired within days to clean offices and apartments in the area, which were covered with fine dust from the collapsed buildings.

An estimated one fourth of the workers involved may have been immigrants, and half of these—as many as 5,000 people—probably didn’t have papers. (Newsday, Sept. 12)

All the exposed workers are at great risk today. That is the conclusion of a huge study conducted by Mount Sinai Medical Center, which has screened thousands of workers and volunteers.

“Many who worked at Ground Zero in the early days after the attacks have sustained serious and lasting health problems as a direct result of their exposure to the environment there,” said Dennis Charney, Dean for Academic and Scientific Affairs, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, comment ing on the release of a report by the hospital’s World Trade Center Worker and Volunteer Medical Screening Program.

“This study scientifically confirms high rates of respiratory problems in a large num ber of responders,” Charney explained.

The report said that almost 70 percent of World Trade Center responders reported a new or worsened respiratory symptom that developed during or after their time working at the WTC. Even when examined after several years, the problems persisted among 60 percent of the responders.

The study did not cover cancer or other long-term illnesses that are expected to crop up in the future.

“This was extremely toxic dust,” says Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, an author of the study. He said some samples showed the dust to be as caustic as drain cleaner.

It also contained “innumerable tiny shards of glass, which could get lodged in the lungs, and a stew of toxic and carcinogenic substances, like asbestos and dioxin, that could potentially lead to cancer decades from now. ... [D]octors have concluded that the workers will have serious health issues for years to come.” (New York Times, Sept. 6)

The doctors said that 40 percent of those who went to Mount Sinai for screening had no health insurance. Some had actually lost employer-provided coverage after they became too sick to work. There have been deaths and protest demonstrations involving affected workers.

But the billionaire mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, was quick to belittle the report, saying it was inconclusive.

While the Mount Sinai report covers early responders, the workers hired to clean buildings are also reporting serious illnes ses. Claudia Gil, an undocumented worker from Colombia, got a job one week after the towers collapsed cleaning offices for $60 a day. She now suffers from chronic headaches, has trouble breathing at night and often experiences severe stomach cramps. (Newsday)

When all the capitalist politicians, from Bush on down, were trying to use the disaster to promote themselves, they were full of praise for these “heroes” and “patriots” and promised them everything society had to offer. But little support has come through from either the federal government or local authorities.

Now they are just workers again, facing the same problems as other workers in this profits-first society.