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Program to monitor Ground Zero workers’ health

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A program to monitor the health of thousands of federal workers who answered the call of 9/11 has “been lost for more than two years,” the New York Daily News reports. It “vanished during the bureaucratic shuffle creating the Department of Homeland Security” …

(Aug. 26, 2005)

The forgotten and yet most numerous direct physical victims of September 11th are those who were exposed to the air contaminated by the dust clouds formed when the buildings fell. These contained large quantities of asbestos, pulverized glass and concrete, radioactive material from smoke alarms, silicone from computers. Especially hard-hit were first responders and Ground Zero clean-up workers. Underground fires at the disaster site continued for six weeks, further poisoning the air.

Yet in the days immediately after 9/11, the Environmental Protection Agency under Christie Todd Whitman knowingly gave the public absurd assurances that the air was safe to breathe, that no special precautions were necessary, that local residents could just clean up the dust with water. Two years later, we learned that the White House had forced the EPA to change its initial assessment of the danger to falsely reassure New Yorkers; presumably so that business could go on as usual and Wall Street could re-open for trading. By encouraging people not to take preventive measures, this choice in the end may have shortened more lives than the 3,000 lost at the World Trade Center. (For more on this subject, see World Trade Center Environmental Organization .)