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The legacy of Bush EPA lies about toxic air at Ground Zero

While Dear Leader is pumped up on the air by ABC’s fantasy docudrama, people should be reminded that the Bush administration is directly responsible for the respiratory dangers that rescue workers, and anyone breathing in the air at Ground Zero were exposed to on that fateful day. It was all because then-EPA head Christine Todd Whitman stood up and told a baldface lie to everyone that the air was A-OK.

Back in February of this year, a judge said Whitman could be sued for her statements. (NYC Public Radio):

On September 18, 2001, as fires still smoldered at the the trade center, Whitman said the air in Lower Manhattan was “safe to breathe.” She continued to reassure New Yorkers in the days and weeks that followed.

US District Court Judge Deborah Batts called Whitman’s statements “misleading,” and “conscience-shocking.” She did not grant Whitman immunity from the lawsuit. Residents, students and workers in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn sued in 2004, saying the actions of Whitman and the EPA endangered their health.

They argue the EPA did not have enough information to make its claims about air quality, especially for indoor spaces contaminated by dust.

And in April, the BBC reported that the number of people with medical problems related to the dust released during the WTC 9/11 attacks on New York has risen to at least 15,000.

Today, the NYT reports that Mount Sinai Medical Center has released the results of a study that make it clear that the mounting and persistent respiratory illnesses from that exposure to toxic dust is very real. Will Bush pony up for spreading the lies about the safety of that air?

The largest health study yet of the thousands of workers who labored at ground zero shows that the impact of the rescue and recovery effort on their health has been more widespread and persistent than previously thought, and is likely to linger far into the future.

…For example, one-third of the patients in the new study showed diminished lung capacity in tests designed to measure the amount of air a person can exhale. Among nonsmokers, 28 percent were found to have some breathing impairment, more than double the rate for nonsmokers in the general population.

The study is among the first to show that many of the respiratory ailments — like sinusitis and asthma, and gastrointestinal problems related to them — initially reported by ground zero workers persisted or grew worse in the years after 9/11.

…”There should no longer be any doubt about the health effects of the World Trade Center disaster,” said Dr. Robin Herbert, co-director of Mount Sinai’s World Trade Center Worker and Volunteer Medical Screening Program. “Our patients are sick, and they will need ongoing care for the rest of their lives.”

Dr. Herbert called the findings, which will be published tomorrow in Environmental Health Perspectives, the journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, “very worrisome,” especially because 40 percent of those who went to Mount Sinai for medical screening did not have health insurance, and will thus not get proper medical care.

Up to 40,000 people — rescue and recovery workers — were exposed to toxins by that decision to declare the air safe to breathe on 9/11.

John also posted on this.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding