Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) will chair a hearing today (June 25) on the federal government’s failure to protect workers’ and residents’ health from the toxic dust cloud created in NYC after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The premiere witness will be Christine Todd Whitman, who was EPA administrator at the time of the attacks and reported that the air was safe to breathe. Former OSHA Asst. Secretary John Henshaw will also testify, and hopefully will be questioned pointedly by subcommittee members on why the Administration decided to forego enforcing critically important worker protection standards, such as respiratory protection.
Today’s Daily News’ headline is “Come Clean Christie” noting
“she claimed Ground Zero was safe. Today she will have to justify those words.”
Juan Gonzalez, a Daily News feature writer offers 10 “damning questions” that the former EPA administrator should be made to answer. They include:
- Did you read a Sept. 12, 2001 memo written by Dr. Ed Kilbourne of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) warning about asbestos fibers in air samples collected near the World Trade Center site? or Did anyone from EPA make you aware of his warning?
- Did any top scientists at the EPA or elsewhere in government urge similar caution before reopening lower Manhatten to the public?
- How could you possibly tell the public on September 13 that everything was “below background levels”?
- Did EPA follow regulations and do alkalinity testing in the first weeks after the attack? If so, why were those test results never publicly released?
- Since your agency had legal responsibility for all environmental concerns, what did you do to enforce greater protection to workers on the pile?
- Did you tell the White House that non-health professionals were removing health advisories from your agency’s public statements?
- Did you have any discussions with the President or any other of his closest White House aides about the potential public health danger of reopening the financial district too quickly, and if so, what was their response?
Back in early 2002 Andrew Schneider (then with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, now back with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer) reported on the potential health hazards associated with exposure to the contaminanted air in WTC area of NYC. One article from January 13, 2002 forewarned “NY Officials Underestimate Danger,” saying
1 in 10 people exposed could be at risk of death…health authorities still insist that nearby homes, offices are safe…critics say clean-up suffered in rush to reopen buildings…hidden dangers lurk in the dust.
Here we are, four years later, still trying to get the straight answer. Tune into Mr. Nadler’s hearing to see whether Ms. Whitman’s and Mr. Henshaw’s remain loyal to the Administration’s position that the air near Ground Zero was safe to breathe.