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Bush Administration Slammed for Poor Health Measure at Ground Zero 
Xinhua, August 18, 2004

NEW YORK, Aug. 18 (Xinhuanet) -- An environmental group Wednesday criticized the Bush administration for failing to warn people of the health risks of breathing toxic smoke and dust at ground zero.

In a report on the environmental and health impacts of the collapse of the World Trade Center twin towers, the environmental group Sierra Club accused the administration of showing "reckless disregard" for public health.

"The federal government should have a duty to protect the public from the aftermath of an attack such as this," said SuzanneMattei, the report's author.

The report said that hundreds of people were sickened because of mistakes made by the government during the recovery and cleanup effort following the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

According to the report, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) failed at least a dozen times to change its safety assurances about the air quality at ground zero, even after it became clear that people were becoming sick, and in some cases, did not even check for toxic hazards.

Mattei accused the Bush administration of ignoring the potential health risks because of political expediency. "They wanted to reopen the stock exchange in Lower Manhattan as quickly as possible and I think they wanted to put forth the image that everything was OK," she said.

The report said the government should have issued a warning immediately after the attacks about the hazards of inhaling the air there. Consequently, many rescue and recovery workers at the disaster site did not wear respirator masks because of conflicting assurances about air quality, the report said.

The group also cited a little known study in the July 2002 Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine that compared the health of federal employees working five blocks north of ground zero to their colleagues in Dallas.

The study found that employees at the Department of Health and Human Services who were indirectly affected by the trade center collapse "were more than likely to report constitutional symptoms"such as eye, nose and throat irritation and headache, than those in Dallas.

The report said the Bush administration "has learned nothing from the illnesses and hardships suffered by the ground zero community. Rather, it plans to perpetuate them in any future national disaster anywhere else in the United States."

The group urged the government to continue to vigorously clean up businesses and residences around the trade center site, fund long-term medical monitoring of people exposed to smoke and dust at ground zero and develop a national plan to inform the public of health risks following a terrorist attack.

Copyright 2003 Xinhua News Agency. All rights reserved.



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