News Release

What Did the EPA Know and When Did It Know It?

JOEL KUPFERMAN
Kupferman is the executive director of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project. He said today: “On September 19, 2001, one day after the EPA declared that the ‘air was safe to breathe,’ we took samples in lower Manhattan and sent them to two respected labs — the results came back with alarmingly high levels of toxins such as asbestos and fiberglass. We filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the EPA, resulting in 800 pages of raw data which revealed that — in spite of their assurances to the contrary — EPA, OSHA and the various other health and environmental agencies knew of the dangers present at Ground Zero and beyond, on the ground and in the air.” Kupferman said the documents showed that:

* “Analyses prepared for the EPA by scientists were held back from publication, though their findings were highly relevant to health care providers trying to diagnose and treat those with acute symptoms, to say nothing of the public at large, which deserved to know its own risks.”

* “High concentrations of dangerous contaminants remained even three weeks after the towers collapsed — after, at EPA’s urging, people were back in the area, living and working full-time.”

* “In the three weeks following September 11, the agency was testing the ambient air but not releasing the results, and it was not testing settled dust with the highest-scrutiny techniques available — choosing, instead, cheaper and non-aggressive techniques that, predictably, yielded lower results. Nor was it testing air inside offices or apartments near Ground Zero, where people were told it was safe to return within three days of the disaster.”

* “EPA also failed to reveal that, for its own headquarters cleanup, it used a particular type of high-sensitivity sampling method, called micro-vacuum. EPA then took a position that micro-vac testing was unnecessary for schools and residences in lower Manhattan. EPA cleaned up its own headquarters using professional abatement methods while directing residents to follow the city’s Department of Health instructions which recommended using ‘a wet rag or wet mop.’ EPA also actively discounted results obtained when the micro-vac was used independently in the neighborhood.”

Kupferman added: “In April 2002, the Uniformed Firefighters Association, concerned about members’ exposure, asked my organization to conduct testing on fire engines; our testing showed up to 5 percent chrysotile asbestos, five times the level at which the law requires immediate de-contamination, on vehicles that had already been ‘decontaminated’ by a city contractor.”

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TOM BRAZAITIS
Brazaitis, formerly a Cleveland Plain Dealer senior editor, wrote an August 31 column titled “Promises Turn to Toxic Dust.” He said today: “A report released by the Office of the Inspector General of the EPA … [states that] ‘the White House Council on Environmental Quality influenced the information that EPA communicated to the public through its early press releases when it convinced EPA to add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones….’ The National Security Council operatives played a similar role in an earlier scandal involving the false assertion … that Saddam Hussein had tried to acquire uranium in Africa for weapons of mass destruction.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 332-5055 or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167