If you lived in or were visiting New York City during 9/11, you need to read this article, "The 9/11 Cover-Up," in Discover right now. This is especially true if if you were downtown or in Brooklyn at the time or have lived below Canal Street since then. It will explain why you've got a cough, why you haven't felt the same since then, and probably why you're going to get seriously sick in the future. It's also the most perfect example I can think of for why everyone should know a little biology, a little chemistry, just enough to know that breathing particulate matter of any sort is not healthy, whether it's in cigarette smoke or demolition dust. It would be nice, too, if we had some vague idea of the materials used in our everyday world as well. Better living through chemistry and all that.
I don't like to be a know-it-all, but even if I hadn't been working for an environmental consulting firm at the time, I do know enough science that my first thoughts about the air down there would still have been the same: it's not safe and it's not going to be for a long time, or without a professional hazardous waste clean-up. Not when everything in both buildings was pulverized so finely that very little organic remains were found, and burned so hot that it evaporated and aerosolized. When buildings of that size turn to dust and are thrown high into the air, blanketing an entire area and getting into ductwork and HVAC systems, then never properly cleaned, how can that be healthy?
More importantly, why would you believe anyone who told you it was? How can you look at this picture of what the Twin Towers became as they fell down and think that opaque, billowing mess was safe to breathe? Or that what it left behind was harmless? As they did with Katrina, the government failed to do its job in a truly negligent manner, one that smacks of depraved indifference.
The big question is why the EPA, Christy Todd Whitman, and Rudy Giuliani lied about it. Why did the EPA do such a slip-shod analysis? Why did the White House suppress what information they had about the conditions and make it all seem all right? Was it simply not to give Osama the satisfaction of know exactly how much damage his operatives had done? Did Bush et al think that was never going to come out? Or did they think it wouldn't come out until their terms were over and it didn't matter anymore?
And people wonder why I'm such a cynic.