Title Page Previous Next Contents | Part 3. Was environmental health protected on 9/11? Whistleblowers, watchdogs and wee little people >Evidence of health effects

Evidence of health effects


As the events unfolded and as doctors and hospitals began seeing health effects in their patients, they began to see a need to mount studies. Unfortunately, though, many of these researchers had to delay their studies until funding could be secured, CRS notes. So there may have been missed opportunities for data, as a result.

According to Congressman Nadler, the agencies’ lack of attention to indoor hazards loomed as a very real problem. Nadler claimed that it was absurd that the EPA claimed publicly that it didn’t have the legal authority to do necessary environmental tests and remediation in response to the World Trade Center attacks when it has clearly done residential work throughout the country, said Congressman Nadler.  “Why is New York being treated differently?” 

His congressional hearings spurred an avalanche of new information about the Towers’ collapse.

·         The EPA’s Ombudsman’s office launched an investigation into the actions and response of the agency around the World Trade Center.

·         And the St. Louis Dispatch, in an article February 9, 2002, unleashed a bombshell when it reported that the U.S. Geological Survey had a "team testing the particulate dust covering the immediate area [of the World Trade Center. They] found that some of the dust was as caustic as liquid drain cleaner and alerted all government agencies involved in the emergency response." The article reported that USGS officials are unclear as to why the EPA didn’t release the information. http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs-0050-02/fs-050-02_508.pdf

“With its world-class laboratories and sensors that can detect minerals on a distant planet, the Denver-based team was already making arrangements to get NASA's infrared sensors and aircraft over ground zero as the EPA and the U.S. Public Health Service requested its help,” wrote Schneider. “Responding to requests from the White House science office, the NASA team flew over Manhattan four times between Sept. 16 and Sept. 23, while USGS scientists collected samples of the dust from 35 locations below.”


The towers' collapse spewed enormous amounts of potentially lethal, extremely tiny particles of crushed and incinerated computers, glass, furniture and other building debris, unrecognized by the EPA's air monitoring.


So why didn’t EPA make that information known to the public, Schneider asked?


In February, too, scientists at the University of California, Davis, reported that dust and fumes from the smoldering rubble exposed lower Manhattan residents to some of the highest levels of air pollution ever recorded. Thomas Cahill, a physicist and expert on air pollution who led the study, said his laboratory analyses of air samples showed that the towers' collapse spewed enormous amounts of potentially lethal, extremely tiny particles of crushed and incinerated computers, glass, furniture and other building debris unrecognized by the EPA's air monitoring.


At the time, the researchers claimed months worth of government readings on post-Sept. 11 air pollutants' risks were woefully incomplete.


The atmospheric research group called DELTA, short for Detection and Evaluation of Long-range Transport of Aerosols, researches weather patterns and aerosols, the tiniest bits of pollution dispersed into air from a wide variety of sources. From Oct. 2 through mid-December, the group's rooftop air monitor clicked away on top of the Department of Energy office one mile north of Ground Zero.


Their equipment was registering unprecedented clouds of "very fine particles,” according to UC Davis researcher Kevin Perry, recently hired by the University of Utah to work as an assistant professor in the meteorology department.  That, Perry said, should be a red flag in the evaluation of rescue workers' and residents' exposure levels. There is no definitive proof of the ill health effects from breathing gunk smaller than the PM2.5 standard.


"Everybody in our field knows ultra-fines are very likely to be hazardous to our health," Perry told a reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune. (17) "The EPA can't regulate such things until they have proof in hand or they'll get hammered in court."


Perry said the importance of his group's very-fine pollution findings was not to prove the EPA lied or set out to deceive. Rather, it was useful to show that officials failed to take into account how much emergency workers, spending large amounts of time on-site, may have been breathing in known carcinogens.


Perry said EPA's PM2.5 measurements of the area mirrored DELTA's pollution readings near the site: “But a more thorough sampling protocol would catch all the ultra-fines his group found and offer a clearer picture of worker exposure and, possibly, what is behind the mysterious cough.”