Government fails to tend to the many left sick by the 9/11 attacks

The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, left behind a grim legacy. No, we’re not talking about the violent imperial fantasies and paranoia that have gripped much of the nation, but the lingering ill health of those who worked in lower Manhattan to find survivors and clean up the rubble. New research shows that 69 percent of workers at Ground Zero developed respiratory problems; 59 percent still show symptoms. At a House hearing on Friday, lawmakers blasted ex-EPA chief Christie Todd Whitman for issuing assurances about air quality in the days following the attacks. Those assurances are on public record, but nonetheless Whitman struggled to shift the blame to local officials. “I did not have the jurisdiction to force workers to wear [respirators],” she said. “That was up to their superiors.” Thousands of workers will likely need lifelong care, and a number of babies are being born early and underweight in lower Manhattan, meaning the need may span generations. For all this, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt offered New York the princely sum of … $75 million. For those of you keeping track, that is less than half what the U.S. spends in a single day in Iraq.