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COVER UP AT GROUND ZERO
"More tragedy rises from the rubble"
By Megan Maloy and Jerri Ann Lewis
Edited by Jerri Ann Lewis
September 11th, 2001
The devastation of the September 11th attacks hit the entire country like a bolt of lightning. As the two hijacked
planes flew into the World Trade Center, the citizens of New York watched in horror as loved ones died and the era
of invulnerability collapsed. After the initial shock, the survivors of this terrible tragedy began to wonder about
the stability of their own health.
The National Resource Defense Council announced that that there were 1.2 million tons of building material and
thousands of gallons of jet fuel containing benzene and other toxic chemicals present in the region around the two
towers. These explosions resulted in hundreds, if not thousands, of toxic components releasing into the air
Water pollution has been considered a very conceivable issue, and there are two hypotheses that address how the
surrounding bodies of water could have been contaminated. According to the NRDC, "First, contaminants could have
made their way into water bodies from airborne fallout of smoke and debris generated by the burning and collapse
of the Trade Center buildings. Second, contamination could have drained into local waterways through runoff of
water used to extinguish the fires at Ground Zero and to clean downtown streets, as well as from rainstorms after
September 11th. Some of this runoff has apparently flowed directly into the Hudson River from the World Trade
Center site or nearby storm drains."1
New York City Residents Placed at Risk
It was more important to President George W. Bush, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and other leaders to show the
world that the United States would not be intimidated by terrorism. New York City residents were deliberately
deceived concerning the detrimental health risks surrounding the area of the terrorist attacks of September 11th.
With the help of organizations like the EPA and OSHA to assure more innocent New Yorkers that their streets were
safe, their water was safe to drink, and their air was safe to breathe, they accomplished this goal.2
"EPA is greatly relieved to have learned that there appears to be no significant levels of asbestos dust in the air
in New York City.....Short-term, low-level exposure of the type that might have been produced by the collapse of the
World Trade Center buildings is unlikely to cause significant health effects.....the general public should be very
reassured by initial samplings." This statement was issued in a September 16, 2001 press release. In the Inspector
General's Report, it was revealed that at that point, the "EPA simply did not have sufficient data to justify their
reassurances. In fact, a new report by Tinsley's office says, at the time, more than 25 percent of dust samples
collected before Sept. 18 showed unsafe levels of asbestos."3
Did the deception end at fabricating fraudulent information? No. Trusting citizens were betrayed
by EPA reports whitewashed by the White House Council on Environmental Quality. According to the CEQ, when the EPA
declares their concerns regarding the workers around the effected area, what that really means is that it is safe.
"The concern raised by these samples would be for the workers at the cleanup site and for those workers who might
be returning to their offices on or near Water Street on Monday, September 17, 2001." This statement was included
in a draft written by the Environmental Protection Agency for the September 16, 2001 press release. Not only were
EPA's concerns completely disregarded, but instead of being permitted to warn the public of a possible threat,
they were instructed by the CEQ to issue the following statement in place of the above mentioned warning, "Our
tests show that it is safe for New Yorkers to go back to work in New York's financial district".4 How
many times has the White House altered the truth to conform to its own agenda?
From the very beginning Mayor Giuliani, Christie Whitman (Head of the EPA), and other officials
failed to admit that no one could ensure that the air and water at Ground Zero was safe. The raw data from the
government testing was not released as soon as they had the results. The public was not told that safety levels
for many of the toxins tested did not even exist because no one had ever faced a tragedy of this magnitude.2
Possibly tens of thousands of citizens were exposed to asbestos, particulate matter, various metals, polychlorinated
biphenyls (PCBs), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), dioxin, lead, and
countless other pollutants.1 If the public had been properly warned, perhaps the number of citizens affected
would drastically have been reduced.
The Effects on the Human Body
The EPA realizes and has published the fact that "there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos fibers". Lung
cancer, mesothelioma (a rare cancer of the thin membranes lining the abdominal cavity and surrounding internal
organs), gastrointestinal cancers, and asbestosis (a progressive lung disease by which the severity of symptoms
tends to increase with time even after exposure has stopped) are considered by the EPA to be just some of the
effects of exposure to asbestos. In severe cases, this disease can lead to death, due to impairment of respiratory
function.5 This was only one of the contaminants present at ground zero.
The Ground Zero Cough
Recently, more and more people are suffering illnesses from Ground Zero. One out of every four rescue workers that
endured the longest exposure to chemicals, smoke, and dust are now suffering severe respiratory problems. "The more
heroic people were at Ground Zero, the sicker they became."6 Many have already been diagnosed with new asthma,
respiratory infections, chronic lung disease, sleep apnea, and metal in the blood. That is just the beginning since
"this population has been exposed to a real brew of cancer-causing agents" that could take 10 to 20 years to affect
Just a Few Unspoken Heroes
John Walcott is a former New York City Police detective who now suffers from a cancer of the blood. In May 2003,
Walcott was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, but does not have a suitable donor. Walcott was approved for
stem cell transplant post cycle four chemotherapy.8 (Stem cells. Isn't that another one of the President's 'moral'
David O'Neal, one of the first-responders, is on the waiting list at Mount Sinai Medical Center
for a lung transplant.7 How many more are like David and John?
One of the people that came to the rescue for the Ground Zero workers was Hillary Clinton. She fought and won over
$100 million to help the network that runs the New York-area responder screenings at Mount Sinai. Even a threatened
veto by President Bush did not stop her.7
Putting Prices on Peoples Heads
According to the EPA's chief of staff, "Competing considerations, such as national security concerns and the desire
to reopen Wall Street, also played a role in EPA's air quality statements."3 Since when is Wall Street more
important than the lives of thousands of American citizens?
Justice for the Unspoken Heroes
A class action lawsuit was filed against the managers, leasors, owners, and controllers of the World Trade Center
by Ground Zero cleanup workers who claim to have become ill after their exposure to the toxins. Attorney David
Worby of the Worby, Groner, Edelman, & Napoli, Bern is representing the more than 800 workers while hundreds more
ill workers inquire everyday. "The tragic reality is that so many of the brave heroes who worked so tirelessly
and unselfishly are becoming a second wave of casualties of this horrific attack." As many as 400,000 people may
be experiencing adverse health effect from the WTC toxins and debris now or in the near future.8 Our government
officials manipulated the data to better fit the economic concerns rather than the future health concerns of
thousands of Americans.
In America, crimes against the people are supposedly considered the worst offense an individual can execute.
At present, the effects of the crimes committed against the residents of New York City are unclear, but,
unfortunately, in about ten to twenty years the ill health effects will manifest. Some of these consequences
could have been avoided if the Bush Administration would have been honest and informed the public that the
air was not safe. When the ill health effects do become apparent, where will George W. Bush be then? Does
America need a man who is more worried about Wall Street than the health of thousands of its citizens? When
you go to the voting polls in November, consider this... how much are you worth?
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