You'll remember that the EPA gave the 'all-clear' for workers to return to Ground Zero shortly after the WTC attack without, as the agency's inspector general would later report, "sufficient data and analyses to make such a blanket statement." Not only that, but the White House Council on Environmental Quality also prevailed upon the EPA "to add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones" from press releases and other public announcements.
Now, with nagging and widespread respiratory problems (dubbed "Katrina Cough") afflicting residents and workers who have returned to clean up in the hurricane's aftermath, the official response seems equally lame and suspect. The EPA has largely downplayed health risks and declined to issue any definitive statements about who should and should not return to flooded sites; as it did after 9/11, OSHA has abdicated its enforcement role in favor of a purely advisory one; and respirators, which should be required for anyone involved in cleaning up flooded housing, are currently sold out and unavailable to those who want them. At the very least, it seems, that state of affairs could be easily corrected.
Instead, the Senate is now moving to relieve contractors of liability and to suspend environmental regulations. Go figure.