I have a friend who was just blocks away from the WTC when the towers fell and her apartment was engulfed in ash for hours and hours. When we finally got in contact again and she shared with me how horrifying the experience had been, I admit that one of the first things I thought about was all that free flying asbestos from the buildings. My friend moved to Los Angeles a year later. But that year of living (and breathing) the air near Ground Zero has resulted in a permanent cough. And now, we get this:
An appeals court ruling could spell trouble for New Yorkers suing the Environmental Protection Agency and its former chief for saying that sooty Lower Manhattan air was safe to breathe after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
A three judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared this week that EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman and other agency officials can't be held constitutionally liable for making rosy declarations about air quality after the World Trade Center's destruction.
The opinion, written by the court's chief judge, Dennis Jacobs, said opening EPA workers up to lawsuits for giving out bad information during a crisis could have a catastrophic side effect.
"Officials might default to silence in the face of the public's urgent need for information," Jacobs wrote.[..]
Some preliminary scientific studies have indicated that as many as 400,000 people were exposed to toxic ground zero dust. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of people have fallen ill, and several have died from lung ailments blamed on inhaled Trade Center ash.