Former EPA Head Says She Was Wrong To Call Ground Zero Air Safe After 9/11

Photo: Amy Sancetta/AP Images.
Nearly 15 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) admitted for the first time that the air in the area surrounding Ground Zero was unsafe to breathe.

Speaking to The Guardian for a report to be released tomorrow on the heath crisis resulting from the attacks and their aftermath, Christine Todd Whitman, who was in charge of the EPA under President George W. Bush, apologized to the individuals affected by the poor air quality.

However, Whitman clarified that she was unaware of the dangerous air quality at the time and denied lying about it to the public.

“Whatever we got wrong, we should acknowledge and people should be helped,” she told The Guardian, adding that she still “feels awful” about the tragedy and its aftermath, and is "very sorry" that people are sick.

“I’m very sorry that people are dying and if the EPA and I in any way contributed to that, I’m sorry. We did the very best we could at the time with the knowledge we had,” Whitman continued.

One week after 2,753 people were killed when two hijacked commercial airplanes crashed into both towers of the World Trade Center, Whitman issued a report, stating, "I am glad to reassure the people of New York [...] that their air is safe to breathe and their water is safe to drink.”

Whitman clarified that she was merely passing along information given to her by government scientists. It recommend that individuals working within Ground Zero wear respirators, but beyond the pile, the air did “not pose a public health hazard.”

Moreover, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani oversaw the work at Ground Zero, meaning that federal government officials, including Whitman, were not in a position to enforce wearing safety gear in the affected area.

Consequently, more than 37,000 people registered with the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP), a federal organization established in 2011 to monitor the response to those affected by exposure to the toxins released at Ground Zero, have been declared sick, many with chronic respiratory illnesses or cancer. So far, more than 1,100 people covered by the WTCHP have died, including first responders and those who lived and worked in lower Manhattan.

More from US News

1. Here At Home: Police arrested a suspect in connection with a shooting at a Washington state mall that left five people dead. The shooting took place...
When thinking about the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) opening this weekend, the first thing that comes ...
On Saturday, police arrested a 20-year-old suspect in connection with a shooting at a Washington state mall that left five people dead, reports The ...
If the chaotic party politics of the 2016 election have left you feeling completely birdbrained, this video is for you. The Founding Fathers (presented ...
The 2016 presidential election has been a captivating contest. If you feel like sometimes you can't look away, well, you're not alone. Even celebrities ...
Update: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney announced in a press conference that dashcam and body cam video of the department's interaction with...
Election Day lasts just one day — a 24-hour culmination of the seemingly never-ending campaign season. But we’ll spend the next two, four, six years ...
What can you do to make the candidates first head-to-head battle as pleasant as possible? What is the secret to keep yourself smizing as you listen to the ...
In the social order of bonobos, females rule and develop cross-generational bonds to keep the males in check. A senior female takes charge, intervening ...
The first presidential debate is finally upon us. On Monday, our candidates for commander-in-chief will finally go head-to-head on issues that matter ...
Update: Officer Betty Shelby, the policewoman who fatally shot Terence Crutcher last Friday, has been charged with first-degree manslaughter, NBC News ...
Step aside, old-school political merch. We're way past bumper stickers and buttons. With the election just months away, people across the country are ...
Between Two Ferns With Zach Galifianakis: Hillary Clinton from Funny Or Die Will Tim Kaine be president for nine months if Hillary Clinton gets pregnant? ...
Goodbye, paperwork printouts and lines at the DMV. Hello, registering while in line for coffee. Starting today, you can register to vote over text ...