CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN: “We know asbestos was in there, was in those buildings. Lead is in the those buildings. There are the VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds), however, the concentrations are such that they don’t pose a heath hazard.”
As the weeks and months dragged on, Whitman, the EPA and its officials made statement after statement after statement reaffirming that contaminant levels were “low or non-existent” and that the air quality in Manhattan posed “no public health concern.”
We now know that these reassurances were outright lies. On September 18th, the very same day that Whitman and the EPA were encouraging New Yorkers to return to work, the agency detected sulfur dioxide levels in the air so high that “according to one industrial hygienist, they exceeded the EPA’s standard for a classification of ‘hazardous’.” By that time, first responders were already reporting a range of health problems, including coughing, wheezing, eye irritation and headaches.
The evidence continued to pour in that there were serious health concerns for those in and around Manhattan, but the information was suppressed almost as quickly as it was discovered. When a local lab tested dust samples from near the WTC site and found dangerous concentrations of fiberglass and asbestos, the New York State Department of Health warned local labs that they would lose their licenses if they processed any more “independent sampling.” When US Geological Survey scientists began performing tests on their own dust samples, they were shocked at the “alphabet soup of heavy metals” they found in it. They forwarded this information to the EPA, but the agency continued to assure the public that there was no evidence of long term health risks.
The drama continued to unfold as information poured in about benzene, lead and other environmental toxins. Yet on September 18th the EPA specifically advised the public against wearing respirators outside the World Trade Center restricted area. Then, just two weeks later, the…