The Lady Speaks

Lies and 9/11

Is anyone surprised to discover that the EPA – on George Bush's watch – lied to emergency personnel and volunteers about the health risks of working in the rubble of the World Trade Center? Is anyone surprise to discover, nearly five years later, that at least seven deaths have been reported, and thousands have been diagnosed with serious and life-threatening health problems?

From Newsweek:

Only one responder’s death—that of New York City police detective James Zadroga, who succumbed to respiratory failure in January—has been directly linked by a medical examiner to his exposure to environmental toxins at Ground Zero. But at least six other deaths (from causes ranging from heart failure to lung cancer) have been reported among responders in their 30s and 40s who worked at the World Trade Center site. And thousands more are struggling with health problems far worse than officials initially anticipated. “People think that it’s just a few guys from 9/11 suffering,” says Feal, “but there are literally thousands of us.”

It’s too early to know with certainty how many deaths may result from the toxic cocktail of asbestos, mercury, silica, fiberglass and other potentially hazardous materials released when the twin towers collapsed. Nor is it possible to say with certainty which of their health problems are related their work in the rubble of the trade center. But it’s clear that many of the estimated 40,000 police, firefighters and other workers who came to the site to assist in rescue and recovery efforts have begun suffering from similar and sometimes serious ailments during the past four and a half years. “You can’t witness and be exposed to what these people were exposed to without it taking a toll,” says Dr. Stephen M. Levin, codirector of the World Trade Center Worker and Volunteer Medical Screening Program at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. “To listen to how life has become for some patients, it’s absolutely horrifying.”


More than 10,700 Worker Compensation claims have been filed in New York, and nearly 94 percent have been “fully resolved,” according to Jon A. Sullivan, spokesman for the New York State Workers' Compensation Board.

But some ailing workers complain that their claims have been disputed or delayed for months—or even years. Industrial cleaner Alex Sanchez, 38, spent several days at Ground Zero clearing dust from the airshafts and indoor surfaces of the buildings around the World Trade Center site with just a washcloth or paper mask over his face. (Newman, from NYCOSH, says no more than 60 percent of workers at Ground Zero wore respirators on any given day and, on some days, just 20 percent wore them—in part, perhaps, because the Environmental Protection Agency issued a statement that the air was safe to breathe a week after the attacks, an assurance that later proved to have been dangerously premature.)


Several thousand other responders who’ve developed health problems since 9/11 have also turned to the courts. “Every day, people come into my office who have trouble breathing,” says attorney David Worby, who has filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of more than 8,000 workers at Ground Zero against several defendants, including the city of New York, the Port Authority, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and contractors with workers at the site.

“If we don’t get these people the help and treatment they need now, more of them may die than died on 9/11,” says Worby, who categorizes about 1,000 of his clients as “severely ill.”

Will the government create another fund for responders who didn't qualify for the Victim Compensation Fund? So far, it’s given no indication it will do so. But, as Mount Sinai’s Levin points out, billions of dollars in aid were recommended for recovery efforts after the attacks. “Out of such a vast amount of money, wouldn’t it be possible to set some aside to take care of this group of responders?” he asks. “I can’t see how any rational social policy can say it’s OK for these guys to suffer.”

Rational social policy wouldn't allow them to suffer, but as we all know: Under King George, there is no such thing as "rational policy".

June 2, 2006 - Posted by | 9-11, Government, Health, New York, Volunteers, White House

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