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Background

 

O

n September 11, 2001, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health in the United Kingdom was in the middle of its annual conference. Astounded by what had happened in New York and Washington, the Institute took immediate action to assist environmental health in the U.S. in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. The Institute donated a sum of money to the National Environmental Health Association to use in ways that NEHA saw fit.

 

NEHA's first idea was to forward the funds to public health agencies affected by these events in the DC, Northern Virginia, and New York City areas. These agencies, however, indicated that they did not need the financial assistance.

 

The NEHA Board of Directors discussed the appropriate use of these funds at length. A decision was made to have a professional writer prepare a "Lessons Learned" report that would examine the response of environmental health professionals to the events of Sept 11, 2001. A committee was formed to develop the request for proposal (RFP) that would be sent to professional writers and reporters, especially those in the impacted areas. The committee would also evaluate the RFP submissions and select the author. This was done in September of 2002. The writer selected was Francesca Lyman, an independent writer and columnist for MSNBC who had written several articles on the health aspects of the events of 9/11. (Her column, “Your Environment,” can be found at http://www.msnbc.com/news/YOURENVIRONMENTH_Front.asp?0dm=C303H.) Ms. Lyman’s articles have appeared in the New York Times, Sierra Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times, San Francisco Examiner and others. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont, and she currently lives in Kirkland, Washington. Her report is entitled “Messages in the Dust.”

 

It is NEHA’s intent to see that environmental health professionals throughout the country—and even the world—learn what the lessons from the environmental health response to the attacks were. Hopefully this will help to better prepare this profession so that should anything ever remotely similar happen again, the environmental health response will be the best that it can be.

 

                                                                 —Nelson Fabian, Executive Director

                                                                     National Environmental Health Association

                                                                September 2003