Ground Zero Report Documents Deception by the Bush Administration
by Caroline Kraus
Former EMT worker John Graham stood on the steps of New York’s
City Hall in August, gripping an oxygen bottle like the one he used
to help survivors on September 11, 2001. Now, he said, he carries
the same kind of bottle every day to keep himself alive in what
he calls "a living hell."
a growing number of people in the city, Graham suffers from the
effects of toxic post-9/11 air, a condition he might have been able
to avoid had he known how dangerous the air was. Instead, the EPA
issued the following assurance only weeks after the attack: "There
is no reason for concern…the public is not being exposed to
excessive levels of asbestos or other harmful substances."
Graham stood as living evidence to the contrary when he joined
Sierra Club representatives at City Hall to help announce the Club’s
and Deception at Ground Zero." The report documents the
Bush administration’s alarming trail of post-9/11 missteps,
lies, and cover-ups, which resulted in greater exposures of many
hundreds of ground zero workers and residents to harmful chemicals
released by the World Trade Center collapse.
Prominent in the report is the added fact that the Bush administration
has institutionalized its mishandling of post-9/11 communication,
making its system of misinformation, cover-ups, and failures official
policy for future disaster responses. This promises future post-disaster
protocol such as: the suppression of health warnings, the issuing
of false assurances, the elimination of the Occupational Safety
and Health Administration’s role to protect the safety of
"first responders" in national emergencies, and possibly
even the lowering of toxic clean-up standards.
Suzanne Mattei, author of the report and Sierra Club New York City
organizer, cites documents that the Sierra Club acquired under the
Freedom of Information Act, as well as first-person interviews with
fire and rescue personnel, workers and people who live near ground
zero. Her conclusion is grim––that widespread public
exposure to toxic pollution from the September 11 attack could have
been prevented had the EPA and other governmental agencies not lied,
withheld information, or discouraged residents and workers from
wearing protective masks.
Furthermore, Mattei notes, the federal government’s failures
cannot be "excused by ignorance, surprise, or emergency conditions"
because the EPA statements and records show that it was fully aware
that dangerous pollutants were still present in the ground zero
During the Republican convention, Sierra Club volunteers, residents
and workers in the ground zero area participated in a daily vigil
near the site to hold President Bush accountable for failing to
protect public health in the aftermath of 9/11. The group called
upon the president to meet the needs of the people exposed to ground
zero pollution. The Sierra Club and its ground zero allies continue
to work to educate the nation about the need for proper protection
of public health in the wake of national emergencies.
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