Veterans Day – Let’s Add the WTC Workers to Those Being Recognized

November 21st, 2009

This suggestion is the result of an article which recently came to my attention, appearing in a UK newspaper instead of one of our own publications. The Word Trade Center (WTC) workers are certainly veterans of the war declared upon the US by terrorists. Therefore it is logical that they receive similar attentions on this day of remembrance as they continue to fight their own injuries incurred by the events of September 11, not unlike that of our Gulf War Veterans.

Chemical induced injuries of war are still with us. Terminal illness is mounting among the rescue workers, as revealed in this news article titled, “9/11’s Delayed Legacy: Cancer for Many of the Rescuers” . Additionally we should recognize the health effects suffered by the crews which spent a year removing the carnage of 911. Their participation can easily be compared with that of military construction crews serving our nation such as the Seabees.

I recall those terrible days following the collapse of the towers and the helpless feeling as those black clouds passed over our city. The particles stained our buildings and became one with our bodies as we inhaled their unspeakable contents. As the shock of the attack upon home soil began to fade, further betrayal was experienced when subsequent hazards in the form of poisonous fumes were not just downplayed but actually suppressed by officials. Our leaders had a duty to ensure New Yorkers and responders were adequately warned and protected. Having been disabled myself by toxic fumes just a couple of years earlier, seeing the live footage of workers wearing flimsy surgical masks -if anything at all – was shocking, to say the least. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the hazards of a basic, average building fire and the events of 9/11 were most definitely not ‘average’ fires contributing some transient particulate pollution problem to a confined area. The magnitude of the destruction here could not have left anyone with a grain of sense in doubt as to the immediate and deferred effects.

In the immediacy of the moment, the responding heroes used what was at hand. That meant filters filled, quickly becoming useless so that responders couldn’t function with them in those early hours of the crisis. However, the situation didn’t appear to change over the successive days and weeks as misinformation was generated and publicized.

Someone recently found copies of letters to the editor of the New York Post which I had written in reply to that misinformation. They are reprinted below and should serve as reminders that contaminants in our air are largely unknown to us; greatly mischaracterized by those with profits at stake and often dismissed outright as folly on the part of fear-mongering hypochondriacs. In reality, we see that they do indeed pack a lethal punch in the form of many diseases our strongest and healthiest should never, ever have contracted in their youth. We are just learning about the impaired health of area residents and one of the letters below deals with school children.

From where I stand, we’ve learned nothing but, perhaps, how to be better at evading the truth. We are all veterans of lies which pit citizens of other nations against us and American against American here at home. Conflicts based in true misunderstanding can be resolved. Wars can bring about an end to tyranny. Unfortunately, when conflicts of interest are all that matters, profits from the immediate resumption of commerce and acts to mitigate future liabilities led us to sacrifice more of our best and brightest. Start digging more trenches over at Arlington. There are uncounted veterans of great LIES.

Letter to New York Post, Re: New York can Breathe Free, 9/21/01

To the Editor:

Your article of 9/18/01 entitled “New York can Breathe Free” is a prime example of inadequate research and concern for the residents of this city. The quotes given from only one medical source gives one the impression that anyone foolish enough to have symptoms of respiratory distress from the continuing rain of particulate matter pollution emanating from the WTC site is an alarmist who needs to see a doctor for “reassurance”.

I refer your journalist to the EPA, CDC and any other agency concerned with the public’s health and safety to see articles (predating this tragedy) about the serious health threats stemming from the normally high
concentrations of particulate matter in our air. Add to this the matter from pulverized concrete and glass, burning jet fuel, melted plastics, smoldering electrical wire etc. which will be rising for weeks and months to come and a real danger to our residents is exposed. Since there is an extremely high rate of asthma in this city, concerns must be expressed for the added burden this pollution presents which will claim more lives.

The treatment for asthma itself increases the assimilation of particulate pollution internally. Broncho-dilating medications open the constricted airways permitting more particles to enter the deeper recesses of the lungs.
Steroids are then given to reduce resulting inflammation. No one addresses the absorption of toxins bound to the dust particles which can have other systemic effects.

It is time to stop the pretense that the public does not continue to be at risk from the WTC tragedy and the proliferation of bad advice coming from official agencies and some media sources.

We should be providing HEPA filters to classrooms and offices in this city and outlying areas. People should be wearing filter masks in areas of the highest concentrations instead of relying upon medications to relieve
symptoms while exposing themselves to further pollutants. Physical exertion should also be minimized in these areas, perhaps cancelling gym classes for our children.

As for our rescue/cleanup workers, they should be wearing the highest quality respirator equipment that can be provided with frequent changes of cartridges as intake valves become clogged with contaminants. Contaminated clothing should NOT be laundered only to contaminate the rest of the family’s clothing. It should be placed in sealed plastic bags and discarded!

I would like to see the Fire Department issue an order that their men all follow these safely precautions just as the Police Department had to take safety matters into their own hands last year in the matter of the pesticide
spraying for West Nile Virus. The police department frequently had escort duties for spray trucks but had no exposure prevention guidelines to follow. A memo was finally issues within the department to tell officers how to minimize their exposure. All we heard from our health department, echoed in the pages of our newspapers, was that the spray did not constitute a health risk. Let us not make the same foolish assumptions here.

We must realize that the city administration and our regulatory agencies are all trying to prevent panic and disorder. However, panic arises when people cannot trust the information they receive, not when the truth about problems along with remedial procedures are presented. We are not children but adults living in the shadow of tragedy who need reliable information so we can take care of ourselves and help our neighbors.

Barbara Rubin


Letter to New York Daily News, Re: Stuyvesant Students Sickened (10/18/01)

To the Editor,

Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Whitman continuously repeat their mantras of how safe the air is to breathe in lower Manhattan. Chancellor Levy occupies an office in Stuyvesant High School for a few days to show he is not subjecting children to an environment which he, himself, would not occupy. These words and gestures are meaningless to each student and teacher who is showing symptoms of respiratory distress or toxicity from
the very real fumes and abrasive dust particles emanating from the nearby ruins of the WTC. Measures to keep out such materials through the sealing of the building only generated a different toxin in the form of elevated carbon dioxide levels. Excessive CO2 levels also causes illness and can induce anxiety symptoms.

It is time we realized that we do not need the approval of those in authority to confirm what our bodies and minds are telling us about our environments. It is past time for us to free ourselves of feelings of
self-consciousness or fears of ridicule when we are made ill by environmental contaminants. For those fortunate enough to be symptom free at this time, the stress upon their bodies to stay that way is a waste of
physical resources. For those who are symptomatic, immediate action must be taken to remove them from the vicinity of the WTC. Children and teachers should not be exposed to the immediate and potential dangers for the sake of putting on a show for the tourist industry. “See, it is safe enough for children.” might as well be the caption under this picture, etched against a backdrop of particulate haze occupying the area around Stuyvesant High School.

The persons who suggested the school was ready to be occupied following an extensive clean-up operation must have assumed that the doors and windows of this building, so close to ground zero, would never again be opened. What possessed anyone to believe the rooms and halls would not be re-contaminated
with toxic smoke and abrasive dusts as recovery efforts continue for the next year? Now officials warn (or is it threaten) parents of the gifted young people attending this special high school that if they pull their
children out of school as a health precaution, they will not be allowed to return. The courts need to step in and issue an immediate ruling to prevent academic futures from being held hostage to the pseudo-science being practiced in NYC today.

The administration of this city specializes in denial of physical realities of health risks to the population. They call pesticides “safe”, as if their poisonous characteristics dissipate upon contact with humans versus the
knock out’ value to mosquitoes. They claim roaches are the major culprit in asthma exacerbation while exterminators spray huge amounts of poisons indoors where they remain airborne for many days and leave residues for months due to a lack of sunlight. The labels all state they should not be inhaled yet bus stops are sprayed only minutes before they are occupied by school bound students. Now, tons of rubble spew fiberglass particles into the air and we are told that these fine particulate pollutants are below the “level of concern”. There are no safe levels of exposure postulated for children, the aged or the infirm. Similarly, women appear to have lower tolerance levels for toxicants than do normal, healthy adult males.

Residents should take whatever precautions they feel are appropriate to take at this time, be it the wearing of appropriate NIOSH rated masks in streets or offices, use of gloves and surgical masks when handling office mail or the strategic flight of “at risk” persons from areas contaminated with the by-products of the WTC terror attack. Bowing to the dictates of reality is not a concession to terrorism but a tribute to our intelligence and adaptability. We can and will go on under all circumstances. However, we will do so sensibly with the full realization that the attack upon our persons continues until the last load of rubble is cleared and the last terrorist cell is disarmed. The costs of ignoring such realities can last a lifetime.

Barbara Rubin

Categories: Letters, NY Post, World Trade Center

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