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Police stand in front of the New York Stock Exchange Monday Sept. 17, 2001, as workers return to the area for the first time since the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center.

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Air Pollution and Deception at Ground Zero
Why It Could Happen Again

Sierra Club Report Warns Post-9/11 Federal Disaster Policies Increase Risks to Human Health

A new Sierra Club report entitled "Harmful Legacy of Pollution and Deception at Ground Zero: How Post 9/11 Disaster Policy Endangers America," warns that federal policies for national disasters compromise worker safety, fail to require precautionary health warnings, and - in the event of a "dirty bomb" attack - allow for lower cleanup standards for radiological contamination.

"Thousands of Ground Zero workers are sick today. If we don't learn from the past, we'll be at greater risk in the future," said Suzanne Mattei, Sierra Club NYC Executive.

The report explains that after the World Trade Center disaster, federal agencies compared test results to improper guidelines, ignored indoor contamination, gave risky advice to residents and failed to protect workers. And in the Hurricane Katrina disaster, they did it again.

Now the Bush administration has a new policy for terrorist attacks if they release radioactive contamination, such as from a 'dirty bomb' or illegal nuclear device. Cleanup decisions would balance public health against a list of economic factors that even includes the impact on tourism. Ms. Mattei asks, "Why treat the pollution caused by terrorists more leniently than pollution caused by business negligence or an accident?"

The report urges stronger oversight by Congress and advocates major changes in federal disaster response policies, so that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) can carry out their duties to protect health, free from political interference.

This is the third in a series of in-depth reports that the Sierra Club has issued on 9/11 pollution and national disaster response.

Download the full 2006 report. (180kb PDF, 28 pages)

Check out 9/11: Forgotten Heroes, the gripping 30-minute film from Sierra Club Productions that explores the health hazards rescue workers and others faced in the aftermath, at Ground Zero.

Still available: the 2005 report's executive summary and full report.

Photo: AP/Amy Sancetta, used with permission.

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