Saturday, May 9, 2009

How The Government Let Down 9/11 Responders

The 9/11 heroes who rushed to the site of the World Trade Center attacks were let down by the government agencies in charge of protecting them, according to one prominent official.

While up to 4,000 workers and volunteers struggled to clear the debris from ground zero, claims James Melius, occupational health physician and chair of the steering committee for the WTC Medical Monitoring Program, those in charge — OSHA, NIOSH, the city of New York, even the federal government — did little to protect these brave men and women from the toxic dust and other hazards at the work site. No real safety training was even offered until several months after the initial event.

Agencies such as The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration failed, Melius says, to provide “the proper protection” to those who worked in and around the site of the 2001 World Trade Center attack — including vital safety equipment and training that could have saved lives in the long run.

“And all the while, We’ll never know the full range of what the WTC responders were exposed to,” said Dr. Robin Herbert, co-director of the World Trade Center Medical Monitoring Program at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, in an interview for The New England Journal of Medicine. But what is clear is that the air at the site was laden with a potent mixture of cancer-causing agents and an “unbelievable range” of other chemicals — all of which may now be slowly poisoning the 9/11 first responders.

“And all the while,” notes Steve Centore, a federal first responder, nuclear physicist, a Navy veteran and author of the new book One of Them: A First Responder’s Story, “the first responders were exposed, with no protection or knowledge, to the airborne chemicals that have cause them so many health problems today.”

Calling for the creation of a comprehensive safety management plan to be used in the case of future such catastrophic events, Melius cites the importance of ensuring that there was “no reason” why the recovery effort at the World Trade Center could not have been stopped after the initial rescue phase so that safety measures could be appropriately installed for the remainder of the cleanup.

“Who knows what current tragedies could have been avoided if there had been, for example, more masks and protective gear at ground zero,” says Centore, “or even just some formal training on how to handle the debris.”

One of the Them is a searing account of Centore’s months spent at ground zero and the years he has since spent fighting a litany of serious health problems that put him among:

• Over 91,000 workers and volunteers who were exposed to ground zero’s toxic dust.

• An additional 400,000 New Yorkers who may have been heavily exposed and could face serious illnesses in the future.

• The 61% of first responders who developed lung ailments while cleaning up the site.

• An estimated 70% of the 50,000-plus first responders who have declared illnesses.


Photo credit:


Princess heidi said...

When i watched the tower fall and I saw all that dust I wondered about it. It seems ignorant that agencies in charge of the clean up would not have taking this in effect. That building was made with Asbestos. Plus who really knows what else was in that building. The responders need to file a class action suit and make sure there medical expenses are paid for from any disease caused from there lack of safety .

Anonymous said...

devastating as it seems Gary i believe the government is fully responisble for 911Families.i feel the investigation should be reopen i am not fully satisfied with the end of this investigation. the wives have more information on it the news media is telling us on September 11th 2001 Attacks.the government was fully aware where the men were going and they knew they were taking flight lessons many try too call the FBI warned them of it but yet 911 Happen LOOK AT OUR GOVERNMENT PEOPLE!

maiddy78_1 said...


Anonymous said...

I wholly agree with you on this Gary 9/11 was tragic in so many ways and way too many people died needlessly. Our government was slack in training these pilots without a full clearance and they were also slack in protecting the responders. I don't blame the government ie: 9/11 was an inside job........nooo way but the government is to blame for not keeping the rescuers safe.

Technoid said...

I can't understand the reckless disregard for safety that was shown by everyone. It would be a quick process to create an inventory of known chemicals and the building materials, etc., present at ground zero. I wonder if at least good masks were worn by all there. If not, some of the sick need to own that they were reckless. Anyway, I can't see why our officials would ever take a chance like they did, not making everyone use available equipment suited for asbestos and other threats just in case. They at least knew there was asbestos. It is really sad just how bad it has terribly effected so many people. Declaring the air at ground zero to be safe was criminal.