First Response: Lie
Mount Sinai's Dr. Robin Herbert told reporters, "Our patients are very, very highly exposed, and are likely to suffer health consequences for the rest of their lives."
Last Friday, lawmakers in Congress criticized the federal government's response to the health crisis as well as public assurances that air around the World Trade Center site was safe. In the days immediately following the attacks, then-EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman appeared twice to report that the air was "safe to breathe." On September 13, Whitman told reporters: "We have not seen any reason — any readings that have indicated any health hazard."
An EPA scientist now says Whitman was flat-out lying. In some cases, tests showed that the air at the site was, in fact, as caustic as Drano. At the behest of the White House, however, those results were not released.
Whitman has since asked for immunity from a class-action suit brought against her by residents of Lower Manhattan. A judge rejected the request, saying that Whitman's actions, if proven true, shock the conscience. In her 83-page ruling on the immunity request, Judge Deborah Batts wrote: "No reasonable person would have thought that telling thousands of people that it was safe to return to lower Manhattan, while knowing that such return could pose long-term health risks and other dire consequences, was conduct sanctioned by our laws."