Thursday, September 11, 2003

Well, it's the second anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11. I'm not planning on spending a lot of time and verbiage on the occasion (although I remain as saddened and disturbed by it as I ever was), but I'd like to link to at least one ongoing consequence of the attacks: health problems.

Yes, as DailyKos and others have pointed out, it's extremely likely that
the WTC fires poisoned the air of New York and, by extension, the health of New Yorkers.

The burning ruins of the World Trade Center spewed toxic gases "like a chemical factory" for at least six weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks despite government assurances the air was safe, according to a study released on Wednesday.

The gases of toxic metals, acids and organics could penetrate deeply into the lungs of workers at Ground Zero, said the study by scientists at the University of California at Davis and released at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in New York.

Lead study author Thomas Cahill, a professor of physics and engineering, said conditions would have been "brutal" for workers at Ground Zero without respirators and slightly less so for those working or living in adjacent buildings.

"The debris pile acted like a chemical factory," Cahill said. "It cooked together the components and the buildings and their contents, including enormous numbers of computers, and gave off gases of toxic metals, acids and organics for at least six weeks."

That's not the problem. The problem is that it was covered up. The EPA got leaned on by (Kos says) the NSA to declare the "all clear", despite serious questions about whether or not New Yorkers would be affected by this. This essentially amounts to the U.S. government hiding the evidence of a chemical attack; and that's unconscionable. Bush (for where else could this policy have come from?) didn't want New Yorkers to panic and wanted the New York economy back up and running again as quickly as possible. For that, Bush needlessly put the lives of millions of New Yorkers at risk, and there's no justification for that whatsoever. (The economy was already hit, and would have recovered... and everybody would have understood had Bush stated what was really going on.)

Thing is, it wouldn't be so bad if the cover-up had only happened back when the attacks happened, but it's still going on now; the New York Post is trying to politicize it by (naturally) claiming that Hillary Clinton is politicizing it; the "project, project, project" tactic remains as popular as ever.

The Post also hauled out notorious "junk science debunker" Steven Milloy to claim that everything is fine, but Milloy's been so roundly contradicted and humiliated in the past as to be useless- his credibility is shot.

(The howlers on his website about DDT alone places him squarely in the "crank" category, with little hope from escape.)

Sadly, Milloy's case is singularly weak here as well. He claims that:

-the EPA has said things are safe, which begs the question when discussing a coverup;

-"there have been no credible reports that...the air quality has caused any... harm to the public", which not only raises the question of what Milloy knows about "credible" but is blasted in the face of the report linked in the Yahoo story;

-the inspector general's "criticism is absurd because such data are impossible to obtain and isn't necessary because there's no indicatino of health problems", which is not only ludicrous (has he heard of air and soil samples), but contains the huge assumption that there are no health problems (which is unsupported) and that they'd appear quickly and obviously (which is ludicrious);

-The president is perfectly justified in telling the EPA to fudge the numbers because it's a government agency, and (I kid you not) "is an agency that spends most of its time chasing imaginary or infinitesimal health risks from the everyday environment... it's arguably not equipped to operate without supervision in an emergency"... which is the most insane load of tendentious partisan horseshit in the guise of science that I've heard since...


...the last time I read Milloy.

Other than the desire to drop Milloy into a vat of PCBs, the only thing I can get out of this is that the wingers are really unequipped to deal with this problem. If they were, they'd get a real scientist. As it is, Milloy's presence is probably the best sign yet that something real bad almost certainly happened in New York, and it got covered up.

Were he not relying on a fearful public's desperate belief that their president is trying to do the right thing, this issue alone would get Bush a ride out of town on a rail. As it is, it just provides more reason why he needs to be removed before he does even more damage.

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