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Letter to The New York Post

Barbara Rubin to New York Post, Re: New York can Breathe Free, 9/21/01

From: agasaya@webtv.net (Barbara Rubin)
Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2001 07:09:46 -0400 (EDT)
To: letters@nypost.com
Subject: Re: New York can Breathe Free

To the Editor,

Your article of 9/18/01 entitled "New York can Breathe Free" is a prime example of inadequate research and concern for the residents of this city. The quotes given from only one medical source gives one the impression that anyone foolish enough to have symptoms of respiratory distress from the continuing rain of particulate matter pollution emanating from the WTC site is an alarmist who needs to see a doctor for "reassurance".

I refer your journalist to the EPA, CDC and any other agency concerned with the public's health and safety to see articles (predating this tragedy) about the serious health threats stemming from the normally high concentrations of particulate matter in our air. Add to this the matter from pulverized concrete and glass, burning jet fuel, melted plastics, smoldering electrical wire etc. which will be rising for weeks and months to come and a real danger to our residents is exposed. Since there is an extremely high rate of asthma in this city, concerns must be expressed for the added burden this pollution presents which will claim more lives.

The treatment for asthma itself increases the assimilation of particulate pollution internally. Broncho-dilating medications open the constricted airways permitting more particles to enter the deeper recesses of the lungs. Steroids are then given to reduce resulting inflammation. No one addresses the absorption of toxins bound to the dust particles which can have other systemic effects.

It is time to stop the pretense that the public does not continue to be at risk from the WTC tragedy and the proliferation of bad advice coming from official agencies and some media sources.

We should be providing HEPA filters to classrooms and offices in this city and outlying areas. People should be wearing filter masks in areas of the highest concentrations instead of relying upon medications to relieve symptoms while exposing themselves to further pollutants. Physical exertion should also be minimized in these areas, perhaps cancelling gym classes for our children.

As for our rescue/cleanup workers, they should be wearing the highest quality respirator equipment that can be provided with frequent changes of cartridges as intake valves become clogged with contaminants. Contaminated clothing should NOT be laundered only to contaminate the rest of the family's clothing. It should be placed in sealed plastic bags and discarded!

I would like to see the Fire Department issue an order that their men all follow these safely precautions just as the Police Department had to take safety matters into their own hands last year in the matter of the pesticide spraying for West Nile Virus. The police department frequently had escort duties for spray trucks but had no exposure prevention guidelines to follow. A memo was finally issues within the department to tell officers how to minimize their exposure. All we heard from our health department, echoed in the pages of our newspapers, was that the spray did not constitute a health risk. Let us not make the same foolish assumptions here.

We must realize that the city administration and our regulatory agencies are all trying to prevent panic and disorder. However, panic arises when people cannot trust the information they receive, not when the truth about problems along with remedial procedures are presented. We are not children but adults living in the shadow of tragedy who need reliable information so we can take care of ourselves and help our neighbors.

Barbara Rubin
Rego Park, NY

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