L. Christine Oliver, MD
World Trade Center Disaster
Johnson, Chair of the Chemical Sensitivity Foundation, presented
testimony at the World Trade Center air quality hearing held in
Lower Manhattan by U.S. EPA Ombudsman Robert Martin on February
23, 2002. Excerpts appear below.
As an author and a video producer/director, I have carried out
extensive research into the conditions known as multiple chemical
sensitivity and Gulf War syndrome. I believe that as the weeks
and months pass, the relevance of these conditions to exposure
to the toxic fumes and dust from the World Trade Center disaster
will become all too apparent.
latest epidemiological study indicates that 34 percent of the
veterans who served in the Gulf War, or over 200,000 men and women,
are now suffering from serious health problems. While these veterans
faced many different toxic exposures in the Persian Gulf, one
of their worst exposures was to the 600 oil well fires that burned
for months. Many veterans have described smoke so thick that it
was hard to distinguish day from night. Colonel Herbert Smith
recalls: "When you spit, it looked like oil. When you blew
your nose, it looked like axle grease." When Staff Sergeant
Anne Selby returned from the war and kept contracting what her
doctors described as atypical pneumonia, they discovered that
her lungs were full of what they called "oily debris."
She is now permanently disabled by a scarring of the tissue of
the surface of her lungs.
This prolonged exposure of Coalition forces to toxic smoke from
the oil well fires, a smoke that also contained very fine particles
of blowing desert sand, has enough in common with the exposures
of New Yorkers to the World Trade Center fires to warrant further
consideration. All the veterans with whom I have spoken are now
very sensitive to everyday chemical exposures. For example, almost
all the sick veterans report that breathing diesel exhaust or
the fumes from gasoline or diesel fuel makes them feel nauseated
or makes them vomit. They also report that since the Gulf War
they have become extremely sensitive to everyday things like perfume,
aftershave, pesticides, fresh paint, or cleaning products.
It took months and in many cases years for the sick Gulf War veterans
to realize that they had developed this new sensitivity to everyday
chemicals. New Yorkers living or working near Ground Zero also
may not realize at first that the symptoms they have developed
can now be exacerbated by exposure to chemicals that never bothered
them before 9/11.
On February 11 a Senate subcommittee chaired by Senators Joe Lieberman
and Hilary Clinton held a hearing in Lower Manhattan to investigate
WTC air quality. Dr. Steven Levin of the Mount Sinai School of
Medicine noted the development of chemical sensitivity among some
of the WTC disaster patients they have been seeing at their clinic:
"Some of our patients once away from Lower Manhattan have
noticed a general improvement in their symptoms but find that
exposure to cigarette smoke, vehicle exhaust, cleaning solutions,
perfume, or other airborne irritants provokes reoccurrence of
their symptoms in ways they never experienced before 9/11."
Jerrold Nadler, who represents the district surrounding the
World Trade Center site, has been one of the few people within federal,
state, or local government who has been willing to resist the economic
interests pushing for a return to normalcy despite potential health
risks near Ground Zero. He has called for the federal government
to institute a massive professional cleanup of the interiors of
dust-laden buildings near the WTC site in order to protect the health
of those living and working in the area. On February 11, Congressman
Nadler presented his views on what he sees as a public health crisis
when he testified at a U.S. Senate WTC air quality hearing chaired
by Senators Joseph Lieberman and Hillary Clinton.