COMMENTS: The Air That I Breathe

A House committee held hearings into whether the Environmental Protection Agency misled New Yorkers about the safety of breathing the air in downtown Manhattan in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. Most of those who worked in the rubble of the World Trade Center were damaged: CBS' Byron Pitts cited a study that showed 70% of "workers at Ground Zero suffered some sort of respiratory illness" and NBC's Rehema Ellis reminded us that the air was laced with "harmful pulverized concrete, asbestos and glass." Giving testimony was Christine Todd Whitman, the EPA Administrator at the time. She was on the record as warning workers to take precautions even though "we did not have the authority to enforce that" as she told Katie Couric on CBS' 60 Minutes. As for members of the public outside the work site, she assured them at the time "the danger had settled," NBC's Ellis pointed out, yet since then, not only rescue workers but those who "live and work near Ground Zero claim that the air they breathed did make them sick and the government should have done more to protect them." ABC mentioned the hearings only in passing.


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