The new Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tweeted this on 9/11:
Remembering today those victims and their families, and those first responders who made the ultimate sacrifice on 9/11
— Gina McCarthy (@GinaEPA) September 11, 2013
The statement about first responders making the “ultimate sacrifice” is sadly ironic – and downright insulting – coming from the official mouthpiece of the EPA, considering the scandal surrounding former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman and Ground Zero’s air quality immediately following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
An EPA press release put out just a week after 9/11 on September 18th quoted Whitman’s reassurances about the safety of the air at the site of the collapsed WTC buildings:
“We are very encouraged that the results from our monitoring of air quality and drinking water conditions in both New York and near the Pentagon show that the public in these areas is not being exposed to excessive levels of asbestos or other harmful substances,” Whitman said. “Given the scope of the tragedy from last week, I am glad to reassure the people of New York and Washington, D.C. that their air is safe to breath and their water is safe to drink,” she added.
As a result of this statement and a lack of enforcement about wearing respirators near the attack site, thousands of rescue workers were exposed to clouds of toxic dust and heavy debris in the days, weeks and months following 9/11.
Now 12 years after that pivotal event, at least 1,140 first responders are officially recognized as developing cancers from working in those conditions. According to the Daily Mail, “a Mount Sinai Medical Center study also found a 15 percent higher cancer rate among 9/11 responders than those who were not exposed to the toxic cloud that bellowed out from Ground Zero.”
Further, the CDC has confirmed that out of several hundred thousand first responders near the scene of Ground Zero, and an estimated 100,000 working the pile, more than 65,000 first responders were sickened by exposure to the toxic dust and later enrolled in a health monitoring program. Federal health authorities have tied some 58 types of cancer to the police, fire fighters, EMTs, military. National Guard and volunteers who later became ill from working the site.
Yet for years, first responders battling skin cancers, thyroid conditions, lung cancers, mesothelioma and other serious health issues struggled to receive health care benefits or have their conditions recognized as connection to their service in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. NYPD officer James Zadroga, who died in 2006 of respiratory disease, became the first rescue worker to officially have his death linked to 9/11 response work. The 2010 James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was passed in his honor and allocated $4.2 billion for a World Trade Center Health Program.
Back in May 2007, a Congressional investigation was launched into the EPA’s role in properly responding to the environmental crisis and air quality emergency in the immediate wake of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Former EPA commissioner Christine Todd Whitman refused to testify – despite the fact that her statements on air quality after 9/11 had immediately affected hundreds of thousands of rescue workers and New York residents, and more broadly millions – until she was pressured under threat of subpoena by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) whose district includes lower Manhattan. However, she was officially cleared of any wrongdoing, and defeated multiple lawsuits.
It emerged circa 2003 that the National Security Council seized EPA communications in the days and weeks after 9/11, and that the Bush White House reportedly “convinced EPA to add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones” to give ‘misleading assurances’ that the air was safe to breathe.
An official report issued in 2003 by EPA Inspector General Nikki Tinsley stated in no uncertain terms:
“When EPA made a Sept. 18 announcement that the air was ‘safe’ to breathe, the agency did not have sufficient data and analyses to make the statement.”
With this sick history on the record, current EPA administrator Gina McCarthy’s tweet about the “ultimate sacrifice” paid by first responders on 9/11 is tantamount to spitting on the graves of those who died from WTC fallout, and insulting at the least to those still battling for their lives against cancers and other debilitating conditions.