The latest research from Mt. Sinai Hospital shows that 69 percent of workers at Ground Zero developed respiratory problems, and that 59 percent still show symptoms. At a House hearing last Friday, lawmakers blasted ex-EPA chief Christie Todd Whitman for issuing assurances about air quality in the days following the attacks.
Whitman tried to pass the blame to local authorities, infuriating “America’s Mayor,” Rudy Giuliani, who slammed the former New Jersey governor in an interview with CBS for making people believe the air at ground zero was safe. “The reports we had on air quality from the EPA was the air quality was healthy or at least it wasn’t dangerous,” Giuliani told CBS 2’s Dave Carlin.
The truth is that thousands of workers will likely need lifelong care, and a number of babies are still being born early and underweight in lower Manhattan, meaning the need may span generations. For all this, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt has offered New York the princely sum of…$75 million. As Grist’s invaluable newsletter points out, for those of you keeping track, that is less than half what the US is currently spending in one day in Iraq.
Consequently, Democrats on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce have reiterated their call for hearings into the health and safety of the thousands of workers who spent months at the World Trade Center site following the attacks. The lawmakers argue that hearings are more critical than ever in light of new research that shows that many Ground Zero workers have developed new or worsened respiratory ailments since 2001.
The lawmakers requested similar hearings three years ago after published reports indicated that the Environmental Protection Agency had given assurances to workers about air quality at Ground Zero that turned out to be inaccurate. They made a second request for hearings in July 2006 to examine whether OSHA suspended important safety regulations at the World Trade Center site in 2001 and in communities affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. In both cases, the requests for hearings were rejected by the Republican majority.
But it’s a new political day and eight Democrats–George Miller, Major Owens, Donald Payne, Robert Andrews, Lynn Woolsey, Carolyn McCarthy, Dennis Kucinich, and Timothy Bishop–have jointly penned a letter to Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., the chairman of the committee, requesting the hearings. Click here to ask your elected reps to join this call.