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New Docs Detail How Feds Downplayed Ground Zero Health Risks

Records obtained by a New York worker-safety group describe how officials in the Bush administration as well as federal agencies removed health warnings and misrepresented test results on air quality.

Rescue workers survey damage to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, in New York. (Doug Kanter/AFP/Getty Images)

This story was co-published with the Guardian.

In the dark and uncertain days after Sept. 11, 2001, the sight of thousands of shaken New Yorkers returning to their apartments, offices and schools in Lower Manhattan seemed to signal a larger return to normalcy.

Now new documents have emerged showing that federal officials in Washington and New York went further than was previously known to downplay concerns about health risks, misrepresenting or concealing information that ultimately might have protected thousands of people from the contaminated air at ground zero.

In one instance, a warning that people should not report to work on a busy thoroughfare in the financial district—Water Street—was rewritten and workers instead were urged to return to their offices as soon as the financial district opened on Sept. 17. In another, federal officials declared that testing showed the area was safe when sampling of the air and dust—which ultimately found very high levels of toxic chemicals—had barely begun.

The documents do not reveal how—or whether—federal officials explicitly weighed the competing goals of ensuring New Yorkers' safety and projecting an image of a city and nation unbowed. But taken as a whole, the records—which include email messages from the White House's Council on Environmental Quality to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, as well as interagency correspondence—give the most detailed account yet of how officials kept potentially disturbing data about health risks from the public.

Last year, Congress approved $4.3 billion to treat and compensate people with health issues related to exposure to ground zero dust.

"The misleading communications by civic leaders and their failure to insist on respiratory protection in the days, weeks and months after the initial rescue operation ended undoubtedly contributed and will continue to contribute to sickness in the rescue and recovery workers and in the citizens of Lower Manhattan," said Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, chairman of the Department of Community and Preventative Medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Mount Sinai has screened more than 25,000 ground zero responders for illnesses suspected of being related to the dust and treated many of them.

In response to questions about the way the disaster was handled, the EPA issued this statement: "The federal response to 9/11 has been thoroughly examined, including by EPA's own Inspector General. What is clear is that dedicated EPA staff worked tirelessly under nearly impossible conditions to respond to an unprecedented disaster." The statement goes on to note that the events of 9/11 tested the agency in many ways "and it is clear that some things could have been done better. Our focus every day since 9/11 has been on working to improve and expand our capacity to respond to emergencies."

As the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 approaches, questions continue to arise over the way government agencies assessed risks at ground zero and communicated what they knew to the public. In some respects, the documents examined by ProPublica, which were obtained through Freedom of Information requests filed by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), a labor union health group, expand upon what's come out before about the White House's role in shaping the information about ground zero contamination.

In 2003, the EPA Inspector General issued a scathing report outlining how the agency recast some of its public communications at the behest of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, a branch of the Executive Office of the President. The report concluded that the White House had at least indirectly influenced the wording of some statements by removing cautionary language about air safety downtown. It also found that the EPA had gone beyond what it knew in making general statements about the air in the first weeks after the attacks. In particular, the report harshly criticized Christine Todd Whitman, the EPA administrator in 2001, for telling people in New York that the "air is safe to breathe" before she had the facts to back it up.

Whitman declined to comment on the newly released documents. But in 2007, she strongly defended her agency before a congressional committee investigating the 9/11 response.

"It's utterly false then for EPA critics to assert that I or others at the agency set about to mislead New Yorkers and rescue workers," Whitman told the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, whose chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., represents the area around ground zero. "Every statement I made was based on what experts, who had a great deal of experience in these things, conveyed to me,"

At the same hearing, Samuel Thernstrom, the associate director of communications for the environmental council, defended his role in coordinating the flow of information about ground zero, saying his goal had been simply "to help ensure that EPA's statements were as clear and accurate as possible."

But the new records, some of which were made available to the New York labor group as recently as this summer, depict an administration more set on projecting confidence and protecting itself against political attacks.

In an email dated Sept. 20, for example, John Henshaw, OSHA's chief administrator, said he had received a phone call from Thernstrom warning that several senators were asking questions about how OSHA was cooperating with the EPA at ground zero. In response, Henshaw directed his staff to gather details deflecting such concerns.

"I would like to have the information at hand before any inquiries come in, to nip any criticism in the bud," Henshaw wrote. "They have a history of taking pot shots at us and if we can respond quickly, in a positive, strong, well thought out way, we may take some wind out of there (cq) sails."

In several instances, the documents show, officials offered assurances about air quality before they even had test results or downplayed the degree of the contamination found.

Early on Sept. 13, a day and a half after the World Trade Center towers collapsed, Thernstrom called OSHA's New York office to say Whitman was on her way to the city to talk to reporters about the agency's air testing "since all monitoring reports have been so positive thus far," according to an OSHA email.

But according to its own records, the EPA had only tested a handful of asbestos samples before Sept. 14 and didn't get the results of tests for other contaminants until Sept. 23.

A joint press release put out by the EPA and OSHA said dust samples taken from cars and buildings on Sept. 13 had asbestos levels "slightly above" the 1 percent level at which federal regulations apply. The new documents, however, specify that the samples contained 2.1 to 3.3 percent asbestos—or 200 percent to 300 percent higher than the trigger standard.

"These documents confirm that what happened at the World Trade Center is that we proceeded with a minimalist approach in terms of caution and never really scaled it up as it became necessary, rather than assuming the worst-case scenario and scaling it back as appropriate," said David M. Newman, a workplace safety expert with NYCOSH.

Newman started filing public information requests several years ago to better understand how federal, state and city agencies made decisions affecting worker safety at ground zero. NYCOSH advocates for worker safety, in partnership with environmental and health groups, workers' rights organizations and unions whose members worked on the cleanup. (ProPublica is making the full set of documents obtained by NYCOSH available for examination. We have created a page that lets you search through these records.)

One batch of documents obtained by NYCOSH significantly amplifies a White House intervention described more generally in the 2003 Inspector General report. Within days of the twin towers' collapse, when the air was heaviest with asbestos and dioxin, a warning that office workers in New York's Financial District might be at risk if they returned to their workplaces was removed from public statements at the request of the Council on Environmental Quality.

The original draft of the release that was going to be issued by the EPA and OSHA said "higher levels of asbestos" had been found in seven samples taken by OSHA on Water Street in the Financial District. The Inspector General's office examined inter-agency emails and found that after the White House reviewed the draft and suggested revisions, the information about Water Street was removed, as was this warning to office workers: "The concern raised by these samples would be for workers at the cleanup site and for those workers who might be returning to their offices on or near Water Street."

The newly released documents show that, in place of the caution about Water Street, office workers were urged to return to work on Monday, Sept. 17. "Our tests show it is safe for New Yorkers to go back to work in New York's financial district," OSHA's administrator says in the final version of the release.

Officials seemed to be sending two distinct messages: telling office workers and residents the air was safe, while repeatedly warning first responders and crews working right on the debris pile to wear protective gear. Those conflicting assurances and warnings given by federal officials left workers and residents unsure what steps to take to protect themselves.

Critics have accused officials of not leveling with the public about what they knew and didn't know in the aftermath of the attacks.

In July 2002, for instance, it was revealed that, despite assurances by EPA and OSHA officials, harmful dust remained on Wall Street well after it reopened because vacuum trucks had initially used the wrong filters.

The new documents show that in 2003 an investigator with the Inspector General's office asked Tina Kreisher, the EPA's chief spokeswoman on 9/11, whether she or anyone else at the agency considered acknowledging the misstep. Kreisher said she could not remember whether such a discussion had taken place.

Kreisher could not be reached for comment. In her interview with the Inspector General's office, she acknowledged that the EPA's choices reflected a conscious effort to reassure the public. "The emphasis came from the administration and the White House." she said.

Federal officials also opted not to sound alarms even after tests registered unprecedented levels of dioxin at and around ground zero, the NYCOSH documents show.

Dioxin, a pollutant that can cause cancer, damage the immune system and lead to developmental problems, is most harmful when absorbed through food. But it can also cause harm when inhaled. OSHA discussed the alarming test results internally:

"Just received a sample taken at the WTC (in or near the plume I believe)," an OSHA employee wrote in an October 2001 email to John Henshaw, the agency's administrator. "The result was very high … EPA is saying it is one of the highest levels they have ever seen." The level was about 1,000 times higher than normal for dioxin.

Henshaw forwarded the message to Patricia Clark, regional administrator of OSHA's New York office, and asked what she knew about the dioxin sampling. By early that same afternoon, Clark wrote back calmly reminding her boss that OSHA does not have a standard for exposure to dioxin, and that the extremely high level "would drop off dramatically away from the plume."

A year later, the EPA acknowledged in a report that dioxin levels had reached "the highest ambient concentrations that have ever been reported," but discounted their significance because the dioxin had not been ingested.

Newman said he was shocked to find that OSHA had knowledge of this early on in the cleanup and did not issue a warning. "There is no evidence or indication that this information had any significant impact on their operation or the way they communicated risk to the workers," he said.

OSHA did not respond to requests for comment on the documents or its handling of this matter.

The NYCOSH documents make clear that, contrary to the claims of some critics, local officials recognized the extraordinary hazards of working on the pile and tried to address them, sometimes with little support from their federal counterparts.

City health officials consistently urged responders working amid the rubble to wear proper respiratory equipment, including specially fitted respirator masks, throughout the cleanup. Kelly McKinney, the associate commissioner of the New York City Department of Health in 2001, repeatedly asked OSHA to enforce orders for workers to wear respirators. OSHA officials responded that they were acting in an advisory role and would not issue fines because that would slow down operations. Instead, OSHA said it would encourage voluntary compliance with the regulations.

The voluntary approach had limitations. According to one email, when an OSHA representative tried to set up a mobile distribution point for respirator masks, he was reportedly told to leave by a city fire department battalion chief. "The Fire Department takes care of its own," the chief said. "We don't need any help from civilians."

As part of its response to the 2003 Inspector General report, the EPA promised to improve how it communicated risk in rapidly changing emergencies, such as the 9/11 attack.

An agency spokesman said that since then, the EPA has helped develop a government-wide plan for crisis response. The agency also has opened an Emergency Operations Center that provides the agency's data and expertise to other government agencies during emergencies.

Nevertheless, some 9/11 veterans, including Nadler, the ground zero congressman, say they would still question government assurances that air was safe in the aftermath of a similar disaster.

"I'd be very leery about believing it unless I saw real evidence," said Nadler. "There's always a pressure on government to say that things are better, there's always pressure to cover up the extent of a disaster, and depending on the character of the officials in charge they may or may not yield to that pressure."

Anthony DePalma, a former New York Times correspondent who covered the 9/11 health issues, is author of "City of Dust: Illness, Arrogance and 9/11"

morgan sheridan

Sep. 8, 2011, 8:50 p.m.

This is a crime against the people of New York and all the first responders and people who came in from around the country to help—they deserved to know, and not have their lives played with like so many poker chips on some politician’s table.  Just freaking contemptible!

The 9/11 workers are often left out of the narrative of trauma and suffering that occurred almost 10 years ago.  It’s great to see this covered here. Democracy Now recently interviewed Anthony DePalma­, the author of this article, and Joel Kupferman, Executive director of the New York Environmental Law & Justice Project: http://www.democracynow.org/2011/9/9/as_study_links_9_11_debris

I spent 3 weeks with the Red Cross at Ground Zero after 9/11.  Like many other responders, I have been diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer (Myeloma), which most commonly occurs in people in their 70’s.  I was 36 when I was diagnosed, and will probably live with and fight this disease for the rest of my life.  The 9/11 health bill does NOT cover my illness.  Frankly, I feel that if it ever does it will be too late for me.

Barry Schmittou

Sep. 9, 2011, 12:41 p.m.

God please be with Sue and everyone everyone who was harmed by 9/11 !!

It’s so sad that we often experience governments and businesses that downplay dangers that citizens may face.

I have seen and experienced so much of this I am trying to turn everything over to God.

There is a great book by Stormie O’Martian called The Power of a Praying Life. This book has really helped me in my life.

Stormie has Chapters that guide us through struggles and she quotes many Bible verses to support her writings.

I will close by praying again, God please be with Sue and everyone who was harmed by 9/11, and please be with us all !!

The dust was horrific and the damage yet unknown is far worse than the latest health studies indicate. But ALL the DUST is but a drop of spit in the wind compared to the carefully buried horror of toxic fumes from burning PCBs… and the coming “Mystery Cancer Epidemics” of 2020.

Watch for Cancers of the Thyroid, Liver, Bile Duct, and Pancreas. I’ve warned of this since early October 2001 after sampling dust… and air… from my Brother’s apartment in Battery Park, “across the street” from his WTC office, now gone.

WHAT happens when you breathe the fumes from burning PCBs? We’ve known that for decades. See “Inhalation”—
http://ull.chemistry.uakron.edu/erd/Chemicals/2000/1917.html

WHY are so many PCBs everywhere in office buildings? We’ve known since the day we put PCBs in pre-1977 paints—
https://www.amherst.edu/offices/enviro_health_safety/polpro/overview/pcb_management#pcbequip

WHAT immediate health risks are to be addressed in an Office Fire? Federal Authorities had a “Dress Rehearsal” for 9/11 in DC in October 1999—
http://www.oig.doc.gov/OIGPublications/OS-IPE-12453-03-2000.pdf

It’s a warning taught to every fireman on Day One… stop at a firehouse and ask anyone in a uniform what they’ve been told to do in the event of a fire involving a PCB electrical transformer—
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00039890209601411

This has NOTHING to do with the ignorant sickness of the “Truthers.”

Madness, Death and Denial. From every corner of Government…to the gravesites yet uncounted. And families never to be compensated.

After all— “WHO could have foreseen a link to Cancers?”

thank you Barry and Kyle.  “WHO” indeed.

i will be posting many of your links to my blog. in fact, feel free to cross post your comment yourself, if you would like.

http://www.groundzerocancer.wordpress.com

I was there at ground zero in January working for 7 days.  I am an OSHA inspector and we documented what we saw on the walk arounds we did each day, so they knew there was lots of volunters that would not wear a respirator.
I just had a throid biopsey, thank God it is clean this time but what about next time…...I am sad.

The sad part about this story is that people do not think for themselves. When I first watched the EPA say the air was safe, I knew it was a lie. How can air be safe from buildings that collapsed due to massive fires? If you count the fuel that ignited the buildings and the materials used to put the building together, there is no way that the air could be safe to breathe. The building itself was built in the 70’s, I believe, and asbestos was used in buildings then.
The government lied so now thousands more innocent people will die from the tragedy of 9/11. Whatever is needed to take care of these people, Congress should just approve. There should be no bickering or postering.

Just another example of how ‘fear of retaliation’ for doing the job “correctly” results in undesirable outcomes. Two or three airplanes crash and the system we rely upon to respond knots up and rather than tell the truth and prevent further horrors simply perpetrates another. Utter rubbish that an event like 9/11, as horrible as it has been, would cripple and disable any agency’s ability to perform. And so in the face of disaster it seems that our government would rather appear ‘strong and invincible’ as opposed to kind and caring. Just another fine example of why the retaliatory approach to employee’s telling the truth(about the business at hand) retards our ability to advance. Some are always willing to spill other’s blood as long as they are not blamed and can look good doing it. Because as we all know, this long after the fact memories will be shorter AND the general public is quite accepting of the government and it’s various agencies outright lying about…...well, pretty much everythiong until it’s dragged into the harsh light of day. Thanks anyway ProPub.

I spoke with an attorney today.  Presently, there are three congressmen, King, Maloney, and Nadler who are working bipartisanly to include cancer among the ailments related to 9/11 that are covered.  He told me the best thing anyone can do at this point is to contact their own congressmen and women and urge them to join their colleagues in this endeavor.  That, and to SPEAK UP.

We’d never have documentation of this horror it it weren’t for NYCOSH.  They and groups like them deserve all the support we can give them.

OBAMA EPA IGNORES PUBLIC HEALTH LESSONS OF 9/11 — Pending Legal Action to Resurrect EPA Ombudsman Function Shuttered in 2002


Washington, DC — As the 10th anniversary of the attacks nears and 9/11 First Responders experience increasingly severe health effects from their heroism, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) demands that the Obama administration resurrect the Ombudsman role at the Environmental Protection Agency.  A review by the National Ombudsman in 2002 predicted these health effects among First Responders and others in Lower Manhattan after it investigated the EPA response to the attacks. 

The EPA abolished its National Ombudsman in the middle of its investigation of charges that the EPA lied to the public and did not perform their mandatory duties to protect the public after the attacks.  The Ombudsman acted as a neutral party to resolve citizen and industry complaints about EPA’s performance.

“With the Ombudsman abolished, the EPA is not accountable for malfeasance,” stated PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein who is co-counsel with Regina Markey at Beins, Axelrod, PC in an ongoing environmental whistleblower action filed by former Ombudsman Chief Investigator Hugh Kaufman which seeks to restore the office.  “A viable Ombudsman function at the EPA is the only way to assure that the public can make EPA answer questions.” 

Five EPA press releases issued within ten days of September 11, 2001 reassured the public that the air was safe, prompting residents, office workers and children to return to Lower Manhattan.  A September 18, 2001 EPA press release, for instance, quoted Administrator Christie Whitman saying “Given the scope of the tragedy last week, I am glad to reassure the people of New York and Washington, DC that their air is safe to breath [sic] and the water is safe to drink.”

After those statements, under court protection against threats by Administrator Whitman to terminate his office, National Ombudsman Robert Martin managed to hold two hearings in Lower Manhattan to take testimony from witnesses and experts in response to charges that EPA’s 9/11 response was imprudent, if not outright dishonest.  As a result of those hearings, the Ombudsman found that –

    EPA officials knew the collapse of the World Trade Towers filled Lower Manhattan with carcinogenic asbestos-containing-materials, but refused to follow proper rules on protecting the public from it; and

  EPA’s false assurances about the safety of outdoor and indoor air in Lower Manhattan insulated insurance companies from having to pay claims that arose out of exposure to released toxins.


After the Ombudsman made these findings, in April of 2002, EPA prevailed in court and terminated the office, locking Martin out of his office while he was testifying about the EPA response before the New York State legislature.  In 2003, EPA’s own Office of Inspector General confirmed the Ombudsman’s public pronouncements.  The Inspector General also found that the Bush White House skewed EPA press releases and that “the desire to reopen Wall Street” factored into EPA statements. 

Chief Investigator Kaufman was shunted off to an inconsequential job but he kept up his legal fight to restore the Ombudsman office through the Bush years.  After the Obama administration came in, it continued to resist Mr. Kaufman’s action.  The case is currently before the Department of Labor Administrative Review Board.
###


Read about the Kaufman case

See video of Administrator Whitman’s Lies About 9/11 dangers


View video of former Administrator Whitman Testifying About Her Statements

Revisit Congressional hearings into EPA 9/11 response

PREVENTING ANOTHER 9/11 FIRST RESPONDERS TRAGEDY — Irresponsible EPA Corrosive Dust Standards Uncorrected a Decade after WTC

Washington, DC — On September 11, 2001, “First Responders” to the World Trade Center conflagration and nearby residents waded into dust so corrosive that it resulted in chemical burns to their respiratory system.  These New York City police and firefighters were needlessly sacrificed due to woefully lax U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards which remain in effect but need correction, according to a rulemaking petition filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

After the horrific World Trade Center (WTC) implosion, EPA Administrator Christie Whitman assured a worried nation and terrified residents that the airborne hazardous substances at the site were “below background levels” and no worse than a “typical smoggy day.”  She could not have been more wrong.

WTC First Responders were subjected to dust so caustic as to cause respiratory disabilities and deaths.  Yet, if a similar scenario occurred today, the same results would recur.  That is because EPA misapplied the international corrosivity standard and then systematically failed to test and communicate the caustic properties of WTC dust.  As a result, the EPA standard is ten times more lax than the presumed safe levels for alkaline corrosives set by the United Nations (UN).

Despite persistent efforts by one of its senior chemists, EPA has not reconsidered its mistake.  Dr. Cate Jenkins, a determined 31-year agency employee, charges that the refusal to tighten the standard is fueled by both a fear of liability and industry pressure because the same health dangers, though on a smaller scale, attend workers and spectators at most building demolitions and people living around cement plants. 


“This petition will right a monstrous wrong left uncorrected by official gross negligence,” stated PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein, who co-filed the petition today with Dr. Jenkins.  “It is past time for EPA to ensure that the heroic sacrifice of the WTC First Responders is never repeated.”

The petition demands that EPA dramatically tighten its corrosivity standard so that responders would be alerted to use personal protection equipment to prevent lung respiratory damage.  The petition would bring the U.S. into line with standards in force in the European Union and Canada, and adopted by the UN.

Robert Dellinger, one of the responsible EPA officials, explained the agency position in 2007:

“It seems that agency made a policy call to exempt these wastes by raising the pH level of the corrosivity characteristic.  This was done in public manner, no law suit was filed, no petitions have been received asking us to change pH to 11.5.” 

“It is not the public’s responsibility to detect falsifications by EPA, nor should they have to submit petitions or bring law suits to force EPA to perform its duty to act honestly in protecting the public,” Dr. Jenkins.  “Now that we have petitioned EPA to correct the standard, the agency has lost even this flimsy excuse for inaction.”

After raising this issue to the EPA Inspector General, then Congress, Dr. Jenkins was isolated, harassed and ultimately removed from her position this year by EPA based upon a claim of threatening behavior.  Dr. Jenkins is soft-spoken, petite, and suffered from polio as a child.  The charge that she intimidated her 6-foot male supervisor has been upheld at a preliminary level, however.

“Unfortunately, senior EPA managers responsible for failure to protect the First Responders are the ones behind Dr. Jenkins’ removal,” added Dinerstein, one of the PEER attorneys representing Dr. Jenkins in legal challenges to restore her to her position at EPA.  “The only thing Dr. Jenkins is guilty of is not suffering fools gladly.”

###

Read the petition

View EPA testimony on not reviewing its corrosivity standard

Look at EPA ouster of Dr. Jen

From “Wolfenotes dot com”

As another 9/11 remembrance plays out, we must again remind the public of the destructive role of former NJ Governor and EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman. See:

  Dying Jersey Guy Recalls Whitman 9-11 Remarks – “She’s a Liar”
  Never Forget
  Roadmap to corruption and fraud – Whitman Rolls over for Bush

A federal judge found that Whitman’s 9/11 response actions as EPA Administrator, specifically her statements – contradicting the data and EPA scientists’ recommendations -  that the air in southern Manhattan was safe to breath, “shocked the conscience”.

While Whitman was held publicly accountable for her 9/11 role, few realize that Whitman also set back efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions by over a decade via her reversal of the Clinton Administration’s legal conclusion that GHG were “pollutants” under the Clean Air Act. ( hit the links in this post for a detailed chronology and the EPA documents).

Whitman brought to EPA one of her NJ legal counselors, Bob Fabricant. Fabricant is the Bush EPA lawyer who wrote the legal opinion reversed by the US Supreme Court in the groundbreaking “Massachusetts v. EPA” case.

Fabricant argued for the big polluters, concluding that green house gases were not “pollutants” under the Clean Air Act and therefore could not be regulated by EPA. In an historic decision, the Supreme Court reversed Fabricant’s pro-industry analysis. (see Robert Fabricant’s August 2003 Memorandum denying that the EPA has authority to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act. Download PDF.

Those destructive actions at EPA were entirely predictable for those who followed her record as NJ Governor.

During Whitman’s US Senate confirmation hearing to become EPA Administrator, we warned the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that Whitman’s motto as NJ Governor was “NJ is Open for Business”. (see page 120 – 132 of Whitman’s Senate hearing transcript).

We explained, in depth, exactly how that economic priority drove strongly anti-regulatory environmental policies, including a comprehensive strategy to provide “regulatory relief”.

In addition, Whitman also showed a disdain for science and public health. Whitman was deeply influenced by what she called the “Alar scare” (a warning about risks of pesticide residue on apples, that led consumers to boycott apples and a $100 million loss to the food industry). According to Wiki, “alar scare” was:

  “shorthand among news media and food industry professionals for an irrational, emotional public scare based on propaganda rather than facts.”

Whitman saw chemical risks and public health warnings through the prism of the “alar scare”: as fear-mongering that harmed industry profits.

Reflecting that view, she acted to suppress and fail to warn the public about health risks from eating mercury contaminated freshwater fish. I got forced out of DEP for blowing the whistle on that.

Whitman’s suppression of the NJ mercury issue was a prequel to her 9/11 response action.

Although it is dangerous to speculate and create “alternate history”, we can’t help but wonder that had the US Senate listened to our criticism and declined to confirm Whitman – or had the media been more aware and skeptical of her “Alar scare” ideology – then maybe a lot of first responders might not be dying of preventable deaths caused by 9/11 exposures.

A decade later, serious EPA problems remain unaddressed, as noted by our friends at PEER

I live in the Seattle area, and I have an 18 month old grandson, Evan.  I feel that the “same pressure to cover up the extent of the disaster” is happening now with the nuclear power plant melt-downs in Japan.  The EPA stopped testing water and air in May even though the results showed that harmful levels were increasing not decreasing. The University of Washington stopped testing for radioactive materials in our environment even before that.  This will also be a crime against humanity and so despicable since babies and young children are the ones most harmed by radiation.  Nuclear scientist Arne Gunderson of Fairewinds Associates is one person is a great resource to gain an accurate understanding of this on-going disaster. Where are the people who are suppose to be representing us?  Who is looking out for my little grandson?  No one?

I think we’re getting a better and better understanding over time of just how well-qualified these choices* were for the powers that be.

S

In particular, the report harshly criticized Christine Todd Whitman, the EPA administrator in 2001, for telling people in New York that the “air is safe to breathe” before she had the facts to back it up.

Whitman declined to comment on the newly released documents. But in 2007, she strongly defended her agency before a congressional committee [5] investigating the 9/11 response.

* Whitman, Cheney, Bush, et al.

Welcome to Pottersville 2

http://welcome-to-pottersville2.blogspot.com

Unfortunately, it was all too clear that asbestos, dioxin, PCBs, and phosgenes were going to be a problem.  They’re listed in every environmental impact statement for building or renovating, after all.  And this made it all the worse to hear official after official claim that there was no way to know:  I’m not in the loop, so if I know, everybody knows.

Sue, I can’t imagine your problems, and I realize this isn’t helpful, but I need to offer my thanks.  I’ve got a dozen friends who lived and worked right there, back then.  I lost a couple of friends in the collapse, but many more were saved by first responders like yourself.

Be a bit wary of King, though.  He has a habit of…let’s call it expedience, when he’s not busy fear-mongering.  Friends in his district tell me that if it’s not Homeland Security (or, more to the point, anti-Muslim fear-mongering), he really couldn’t care less, unfortunately.

Howard Katzman

Sep. 15, 2011, 5:47 p.m.

After 9-11 the firemen, the police, the first responders were all “Heroes.” Even the police choral group performed in the Super Bowl halftime were “heroes.” And don’t forget President Bush on the burning pile arm over a fireman declaring them heroes.

So, is this how we treat heroes?