Thursday, August 19, 2004
Bush "reckless" on post-9/11 health
By Mark Egan
NEW YORK — The Bush administration was guilty of reckless
disregard by failing to inform New Yorkers of health risks from
toxic air after the collapse of the World Trade Center in the
Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, a leading environmental group said Wednesday.
In a Sierra Club report titled, "Air Pollution and Deception
at Ground Zero: How the Bush Administration's Reckless Disregard
of 9/11 Toxic Hazards Poses Long-Term Threats for New York City
and the Nation," the influential group said the Bush administration's
mistakes are now in danger of becoming policy for handling future
"The Bush administration has learned nothing from the illnesses
and hardships suffered by the Ground Zero community, said the
report's author Suzanne Mattei. "Rather, it plans to perpetuate
them in any future national disaster anywhere else in the United
The destruction of the twin towers shot pulverized asbestos,
lead, concrete, glass, and other debris into the air throughout
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dismissed the report
as "scare tactics" and said it was committed to protecting
the health of New Yorkers and improving its emergency procedures.
"The American public should see this report for what it
is: a blatant attempt to use this tragedy for political gain,"
the EPA said in a statement.
The Sierra Club report was highly critical of how the Bush administration
handled the environmental impact of the towers' collapse, which
claimed nearly 2,800 lives and blanketed lower Manhattan with
dust and debris.
Series of Charges
Among the charges made in the report:
* the Bush administration failed to warn the public immediately
of long-standing evidence that such a collapse would release toxins
and make the air unsafe to breathe.
* the EPA failed on at least a dozen occasions to change its safety
assurances even after it became clear people were getting sick.
* the Bush administration failed to enforce safety requirements
among workers on the Ground Zero clean-up effort.
Last year the EPA, in an internal report by its Inspector General
Nikki Tinsley, said the White House pressured the agency to make
premature statements that the air was safe to breathe.
The EPA issued an air quality statement Sept. 18, 2001, even
though it "did not have sufficient data and analyses to make
the statement," the EPA report said, adding that the White
House "convinced the EPA to add reassuring statements and
delete cautionary ones." Among the information withheld was
the potential health hazards of breathing asbestos, lead, concrete,
and pulverized glass.
The Sierra Club report said hundreds of people were seriously
ill as a result of breathing contaminated air after the buildings
fell. It said much of the dust was as caustic as ammonia and had
an effect akin to drinking drain cleaner.
Noting President Bush will accept his party's nomination for
re-election in New York, Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope
urged him to take steps to properly clean the remaining dust in
lower Manhattan, fund long-term medical monitoring and treatment,
and retract false safety assurances.