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Docs detail how feds downplayed ground zero health risks

Pro Publica, September 9, 2011

In the dark and uncertain days after Sept. 11, 2001, the sight of thousands of shaken New Yorkers returning to their apartments, offices and schools in Lower Manhattan seemed to signal a larger return to normalcy. Now new documents have emerged showing that federal officials in Washington and New York went further than was previously known to downplay concerns about health risks, misrepresenting or concealing information that ultimately might have protected thousands of people from the contaminated air at ground zero. The documents do not reveal how—or whether—federal officials explicitly weighed the competing goals of ensuring New Yorkers' safety and projecting an image of a city and nation unbowed. But taken as a whole, the records—which include email messages from the White House's Council on Environmental Quality to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, as well as interagency correspondence—give the most detailed account yet of how officials kept potentially disturbing data about health risks from the public.