Deadly World Trade Center Dust Killing Rescue Workers and Residents; Misleading EPA Information Didn’t Help Situation

Word Trade Center rescue workers and lower Manhattan residents were exposed to deadly dust due to misleading Information from the EPA. A report is shedding new light on misleading EPA claims in the wake of the 9/11 terrorism attacks on New York City. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), residents of Lower Manhattan were never told the truth about dust contamination in their apartments and condominiums. As result of this inaccurate information, only a fraction of the 20,000 eligible residents and building owners bothered to take part in a special program designed to protect them from toxic World Trade Center dust.

In a report released last Wednesday, the GAO said that the Environmental Protection Agency used faulty methodology when it reported the results of a residential cleanup program in Lower Manhattan in 2002 and 2003. In that program, more than 4,000 residences in the area where decontaminated. At the time, the EPA reported that only a fraction of the air samples taken from those dwellings showed unsafe levels of <"">asbestos. What the Agency did not admit at the time was that the vast majority of those samples came from homes that had previously been through the decontamination process.

The report cites this misleading information as the main reason so many Lower Manhattan residents failed to register for a special residential cleanup program offered by the EPA. By the time the enrollment period for the program ended this past March, fewer than 300 households had signed up to participate, leaving potentially thousands exposed to high levels of contaminated dust. The EPA had no immediate response to the report, saying through a spokesperson that it needed time to review the GAO’s findings before issuing any comments.

This is not the first time the EPA has come under fire for failing to warn people about toxic materials in <"">Word Trade Center dust. Following the attacks, then EPA Administrator, Christine Todd Whitman, issued numerous statements assuring New Yorkers that the air in Lower Manhattan was safe. Since then, several studies have found those claims to be false.

Far from safe, the World Trade Center dust has been found to contain high levels of pulverized glass, cement and toxins such as asbestos. In the years since 9/11, thousands of rescue workers who spent weeks working at Ground Zero with little or no protective gear have reported unusually high incidences of respiratory illnesses. Some researchers fear that the extent of 9/11- related illness will not be known for years.

The GAO report was made public at a Senate subcommittee hearing last Wednesday. The hearing is expected to continue today, with former-EPA head Christine Todd Whitman scheduled to testify. It will be the first time in six years that Whitman has testified under oath about her agency’s response to the World Trade Center attacks.

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