Open Letter to the Department of Health

August 6th, 2003

New York was once a great city, the embodiment of urban achievement and symbol of the multicultural make-up of our young country. It is now a byword for total lack of caring by a government wiling to sacrifice the citizenry to false reassurances in the various health crises we have faced over the past several years.

The degradation of the hardy New Yorkers, willing and able to take on any challenge, was accomplished by the grandstanding of our city, state and federal officials. Their posturing placed jingoism, tourism and fears of liability ahead of our lives. The concept of public health in the City of New York is now an oxymoron.

Attacked by terrorists, our emergency response personnel lacked proper protections such as effective respirator masks for weeks, as if such basic equipment was not vital to every call to danger or readily available in the marketplace. Weeks of neglect have turned so many of our bravest and finest into disabled dependents.

Federal regulatory agencies withheld vital information about the dangers in the debris left behind once the WTC dust had “settled” , both literally and figuratively. One year later, more effective clean up procedures are finally offered to residents already exposed to toxic materials because they believed those making the initial calls to return to their “safe” homes, schools and offices.

A dozen poor souls out of millions of residents contract West Nile Virus. The DOH then requires millions of residents to be gassed with poisons despite the lack of proof that broadcast spraying of pesticides is effective in this cause or even safe to use in such a manner. No testing is done to confirm the amount of residues which enter homes after spraying or to determine the true half-life of outdoor residues under actual conditions. Best not to know…one must not disturb the tourist industry with such details.

The DOH, ordering these applications, has no mechanism in place for collecting reports of adverse effects of exposure. What cannot be recorded, cannot serve as either fact or recrimination. Both Poison Control and the DOH turn away callers reporting signs of poisoning. Certainly, there is no need to concern ourselves with proof that the toxins from the pesticides can enter our bodies since NYS does not issue permits to laboratories for assessment of pyrethroid accumulation in blood, urine or fat cells.

A promised 48 hour advance notification plan goes by the wayside. The WNV informational phone lines keep business hours despite the fact that few can get through to them and the poisons are sprayed in the dead of night, vapors entering the homes of millions of persons who have no business being experimentally exposed to pesticides. Radio stations report impending spraying perhaps once in a two hour period.

Our needs do not count. The population remains uninformed as mothers wheel baby carriages along contaminated streets. A city is only as good as its treatment of its citizens. New York no longer cares that so many will fall by the wayside now and in future years where those statistics will be a source of national study on the great “experiment” that is us. After all, there are plenty more where we came from.

Categories: Village Voice

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