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Former EPA Chief Blames Giuliani For Lack Of Masks At WTC Site

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TWC News: Former EPA Chief Blames Giuliani For Lack Of Masks At WTC Site
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Former Environmental Protection Agency chief Christie Whitman says it's the Giuliani administration's fault World Trade Center rescue workers are suffering from September 11th-related illnesses, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg is defending his predecessor’s actions.

In a “60 Minutes” interview airing this Sunday on CBS, the former EPA head says former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani ignored her warning that workers at the World Trade Center site should wear respirators and other protective gear to ward off contaminants in the air.

At a roundtable on 9/11 health issues Friday, politicians said Whitman should be reprimanded for lying to the public.

"She started lying and misleading the public almost immediately," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler. "As a result of that, thousands and thousands of people are sick, some are prematurely dead and there should be a criminal investigation of her."

Whitman defended herself Friday saying: "We agreed then, and I reiterate now, that the air on the site was not clean. We were emphatic that workers needed to wear respirators, but I did not have the jurisdiction to force workers to wear them -- that was up to their superiors."

Critics say that despite her current position on the dangers of the air quality in Lower Manhattan, in the days and weeks after 9/11, Whitman assured workers and residents the air was safe. At the time she said, "the levels are all below any indication of a health risk."

Whitman, who left the EPA in 2003, has said of her time as head of the agency, "We did everything we could to protect people from that environment and we did it in the best way that we could, which was to communicate with those people who had the responsibility for enforcing."

Giuliani's camp is already striking back. Former Deputy Mayor Joe Lhota issued a statement saying: "The EPA publicly reported that the general air quality was safe and the city repeatedly instructed workers on the pile to use their respirators."

Mayor Bloomberg, meanwhile, gave his own progress report Friday on the rebuilding effort Downtown.

Bloomberg also defended the Giuliani administration from Whitman’s claims they didn't protect recovery worker's health. He says city officials in both his and his predecessor’s administration did their best with what they knew at the time.

“My knowledge of the people who were working for the city at that time is that they did anything but lie. They were honest,” said Bloomberg. “They did, given the knowledge that they had at the time, they tried to do the best they could, and the people that ran the city at the time, everyone that I know is a pretty honest person."

The mayor also praised the strong economic turnaround happening around Downtown, and cited the area's low crime rate as examples of progress in the past five years.

Meanwhile, Downtown residents turned out Thursday night for a meeting with medical experts about their post-September 11th health concerns.

"We went on from the very beginning to say that this air is toxic, our kids have asthma, I'm having breathing problems, and the only thing that we were told was go back to work, to stay in our homes, to keep breathing that air and to clean it up ourselves," said one Lower Manhattan resident.

"Christie Todd Whitman started the whole catastrophe by lying to us by saying the air was safe to breathe, the water was safe to drink,” said Nadler. “You know that people were told by FEMA and the Red Cross that they had to move back into their apartments, which were unsafe and contaminated, because after all, EPA said it was safe."

The federal health coordinator of September 11th programs said he would bring their complaints to Washington.

Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt said September 11th health programs will receive $75 million or more in funding, if necessary.
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