Thursday, August 11, 2005

Text of my talk on 9/11 Environmental Disaster

Here's the text of the talk I gave in Europe re the 9/11 environmental disaster in New York City. I'm sorry it's taken me so long to post it.

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America has had its share of problems in my lifetime. Growing up with the Vietnam War, I used to hear about the “credibility gap” between what the government told us and was really going on.

The more I studied, the more I realized that it’s not an issue of credibility. It’s an issue of reality. The government has been trying to sell the American people and indeed, the world, a pack of lies ever since I was born.

They told us that President Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy were all killed by demented lone assassins. But how was it that these unaffiliated lone nuts managed, in a five-year span, to entirely behead the Left in American politics?

They told us the break-in at the Democratic Headquarters at the Watergate complex was just a “third-rate” burglary. Some burglary. It brought down a president.

They told us that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction. But the only weapons of mass destruction in Iraq are our troops.

Mark Twain once said, a lie gets halfway around the world while the truth is still putting its shoes on. Today, at least, the truth gets to catch up.

The central issue is this:

In the wake of the attacks, with numerous horrific chemicals in the air, is it possible our agencies were so inept that appropriate warnings could not be issued? Or, did agencies of our government flat out lie to the citizens about health hazards? And if they lied, why? Who benefits?

Contrast the following two statements, both from the EPA – the Environmental Protection Agency.

One week after the towers were struck, with cleanup efforts hardly even begun, EPA Administrator Christina Todd Whitman said in a press release:

“I am glad to reassure the people of New York and Washington, D.C. that their air is safe to breathe”

This statement could hardly have been further from the truth. And the EPA even admitted as much, nearly two years later, after its own internal investigation.

The EPA said of itself,

“When EPA made a September 18 announcement that the air was ‘safe’ to breathe, it did not have sufficient data and analyses to make such a blanket statement.”

So what should they have warned New Yorkers about? A horrific combination of toxic materials.

- hundreds of tons of asbestos
- lead from personal computers
- mercury from computers and thousands of fluorescent light bulbs
- dioxins from burning nylon carpets and insulation
- fiberglass and dust from 600,000 square feet of glass
- PCBs, and PAHs.

PAH stands for Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons – a group of over 100 chemicals commonly formed by the incomplete combustion of oil, gas, garbage, and more.

PAHs can cause cancer, impair fertility, and cause birth defects.

Let’s look at how the EPA handled the PAHs as an example.

- Between 2 hundred thousand to 2 million pounds of PAHs were released in the first few days after the attack within half a kilometer of Ground Zero
- EPA claims it detected no PAHs in the air initially – inconceivable given what was burning
- Later tests of EPA-captured particles showed significant amounts of PAHs

So either they didn’t test what they captured, or they tested inaccurately, or they lied to us. Any of these is a bad scenario.

Let’s look at another example – the caustic dust.

pH levels have a scale of 0 to 14, with both extremes representing something harsh. Lower numbers represent acidity, higher numbers represent alkalinity. Neutral materials are in the 7-9 range.

The pH scale is logarithmic. Meaning, a pH level of 10 is 10 times more alkaline than something with a pH level of 9, and a pH level of 11 is 100 times more alkaline than pH 9.

- Ordinary soil has pH level of 6.7 to 7.3
- USGS found WTC dust had pH ranging from 9 to 11, comparable to ammonia or a common pipe cleaner called DRAINO.
- High pH causes burning of moist tissue in eyes, throat, and nasal passage.

Is it possible the EPA just really didn’t know the truth? Can we even entertain that as a possibility? The evidence amassed answers this resoundingly, NO. They had the information. They knew what to expect. And other agencies had information they shared.

For example, the US Geological Survey, a federal agency charged with studying the earth and making recommendations about the environment, studied the dust at the World Trade Center and found very high pH levels.

They reported these to the EPA.

The EPA mentioned the USGS’s data in a conference call, but never told the public. It eventually leaked out to the press, months later.

In addition, the EPA wrote that their own analysis agreed with the USGS. They knew of the caustic pH levels and didn’t tell the public.

There are many such examples.

And when, on occasion, the EPA did try to make warnings heard, the White House Council on Environmental Quality stepped in and altered their statements.

Look at this before and after example. A draft EPA statement included this phrase:

“The concern raised by these samples would be for the workers at the cleanup site and for those workers who might be returning to their offices….”

But the White House Council on Environmental Quality took that out and put in instead:

“Our tests show that it is safe for New Yorkers to go back to work in New York’s financial district.”

This procedure happened so often that the EPA’s Inspector General made special mention of White House pressure in its report.

So what should the government have done? Rather than hearing my answer, let’s hear from one of the people closer to the scene, Health and Safety officer Micki Siegel de Hernandez:

“They should have said, ‘We may never have all the answers but we know that people are sick, so let’s stop the exposures.’ But they didn’t do that. And they still have their heads in the sand.”

Please note that this quote was dated just about a year ago. In other words, many years after the event, the government has not properly addressed the health issues.

Why did the government misrepresent their own data? Why did they downplay health concerns? Can it really all be about money?

Consider that just prior to 9/11, the US economy’s bubble had burst. Stocks were on the decline. The Federal government was rightly concerned that failing to reopen Wall Street could have serious consequences for the economic health of the country.

But did that give them the right to sacrifice the health and safety of the people who happened to live and work near Ground Zero?

Even the EPA couldn’t justify this. In their IG report, we find this compelling statement:

“[W]e fully recognize the extraordinary circumstances that existed at the time the statement was made about the air being safe to breathe. It continues to be our opinion that there was insufficient information to support that statement.”

So what can do?

We can start by recognizing when we’ve been lied to.

George Seldes, one of the best journalists of the previous century, gave us the key to closing the Reality Gap.

He said:

“If you take nothing for granted, and try to find the facts, you will soon be safe from false propaganda... If you look for the social-economic motive you will not have to wait for history to tell you what was propaganda and what was truth.”

In time of their greatest need, the government utterly failed to protect the health of its citizens.

Cui Bono? Who benefits?

The same people who put President Bush in office.

The same people who received billions of dollars in tax breaks while ordinary citizens are struggling to find jobs and feed their families.

The same people who are profiting from the war in Iraq.

And who’s losing? The people of New York, whose health is being recklessly endangered.
But all of us around the world stand to lose a great deal more if we don’t press for the truth about all the events surrounding the September 11th attacks.

Thank you very much.


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