Stuyvesant Students Sickened

October 18th, 2001

To the Editor,

Mr. Giuiliani 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 mosquitos. 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
911 ASH (Air Safety Hazards) Organization
Long Island, New York

Categories: Letters

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