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white house sought to reassure not protect people after 9/11

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, President Bush urged Americans to "go to work" and stressed a return to normalcy as a way to demonstrate the country’s resolve. But the administration’s push for business as usual trumped concerns about the safety of the air outside the ground zero area in Lower Manhattan where the World Trade Center towers collapsed, according to a report by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) top watchdog.

An EPA inspector general's report, released Aug. 21, 2003, said the White House Council on Environmental Quality changed the agency’s statements about public health risks, downplayed hazards and added reassuring language. A week after the attacks, the EPA pronounced the air outside ground zero was "safe" to breathe even though it did not have sufficient data and analyses to make that claim. (Read the EPA’s Sept. 18, 2001, statement on air and water quality.) The report cited White House concerns about "reopening Wall Street" and "national security" as reasons for deleting cautionary language.

New Yorkers feel like they "were lied to" and are worried about their health because many of them continue to experience so-called "WTC cough," sinus problems, headaches and other ailments, MSNBC reported.

Senators Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) have called on the Bush administration to explain why it edited the EPA’s public health statements and showed a reckless disregard for the public’s safety.

Read Lieberman and Clinton’s Aug. 26, 2003, letter to the White House.

Read Lieberman and Clinton's Sept. 9, 2003, letter to the White House.

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