Was there a cover-up of the risk for respiratory illness at ground zero?

By: Marie Willsey

A Question of Trust?

The debate continued as New York leaders sought to obtain funding for the Mount Sinai Medical Center program and others that would provide aid to those with medical expenses.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said in an interview that it was "understandable in the midst of a crisis the White House did not want the EPA to sound alarmist." But he also warned that "if the public loses faith that things are safe when the government says so, then we'll have done more damage than a pointed statement the week after 9/11 would have."


Acting EPA Administrator Marianne Horinko, who sat in on EPA meetings with the White House immediately following the attacks, said that the White House had played a coordinating role in assembling information from the various agencies and presenting a united front. She said members of the National Security Council played the key role, filtering incoming data on air and water at ground zero, since they were considered to be the experts, and the EPA focused on gathering data and making it public as quickly as possible.

"Under unbelievably trying conditions, EPA did the best that it could," she said [source: Common Dreams].

The question remains whether or not political and security priorities trumped concern for public health. The only thing we know for sure is that debate over the government's response to one of the most harrowing days in U.S. history is a heated one, and may remain so for years to come.

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More Great Links


  • DePalma, Anthony. "Illness Persisting in 9/11 Workers, Big Study Finds." The New York Times, September 6, 2006. (Accessed June 22, 2011)
  • DePalma, Anthony. "Ex-EPA Chief Defends Role in 9/11 Response." The New York Times, June 26, 2007. (Accessed June 22, 2011)
  • Environmental Protection Agency. "EPA Response to September 11." (Accessed June 24, 2011)
  • Garret, Laurie. "EPA Misled Public on 9/11 Pollution." Newsday. August 23, 2003. (Accessed June 22, 2011)
  • Klatell, James. "Insider: EPA Lied About WTC Air." CBS News. September 10, 2009. (Accessed June 22, 2011);
  • The New York Times. "9/11 Health and Environmental Issues." Times Topics. (Accessed June 24, 2011)
  • Union of Concerned Scientists. "World Trade Center Rescue Workers Believed EPA, Ended Up Sick." (Accessed June 24, 2011)