9/11 Museum exhibit casts doubt on link between health problems and toxic Ground Zero air

Originally published by the New York Daily News by Dan Friedman on 8/10/14

Committees representing 9/11 survivors and first responders are demanding the museum rewrite three of the panels in the ‘After 9/11’ exhibit because they say they contain inaccurate information about the connection between exposure to toxic dust and widespread health issues.

WASHINGTON — The government has recognized that first responders became ill from working near Ground Zero — but the 9/11 Museum isn’t so sure.

Responders and surviving family members are furious that panels at the museum’s “After 9/11” exhibit present the connection between the toxic dust around Ground Zero and the subsequent health issues of many workers as uncertain.

Image of lost loved ones from National September 11 Memorial Museum
Survivors, first responders and victims’ families are upset over an exhibit at the 9/11 Museum that apparently casts doubt on the link between toxic air quality and widespread health problems, according to a letter sent to the head of the museum.

It’s the latest in a long list of complaints about the museum’s management and mission by victims’ families and responders, who point out that the 2011 James Zadroga Act, which helped cover victims’ health needs, settled the issue.

“It is inexcusable that the museum would project skepticism about the link between health impacts and WTC exposures, despite overwhelming medical evidence,” write the chairs of two committees created to help beneficiaries of the Zadroga Act in letter sent to museum head Joseph Daniels on Friday.

Museum spokesman Michael Frazier said the letter was under review. “Among our visitors have been tens of thousands of 9/11 rescuers and recovery workers. Anyone who has come to the museum knows their story and what they have endured is of great importance to us,” he said.

Kimberly Flynn and James Melius, who respectively chair committees of 9/11 survivors and responders, demand the museum rewrite what they say are three inaccurate panels before the upcoming 13th anniversary of the attack.

Image of damaged pay phone and traffic signal from Ground Zero
ARTIFACTS OF ANGUISH: A pay phone and a signal, each damaged during the fall of the Twin Towers, will be among the hundreds of artifacts from the 9/11 terror attacks on display


Flynn, whose committee includes downtown residents affected by the attack, said a group of survivors who toured the museum were jarred out of quiet contemplation into outrage by the exhibit.

“It looked like it had been vetted by Christie Todd Whitman’s attorneys,” she said, referring to the Environmental Protection Administration administrator who declared the air safe after the tragedy.

One panel says the Zadroga Act ensures medical treatment and compensation “for those with health conditions claimed to be related to the World Trade Center Disaster.”

“The word ‘claimed’ implies doubt on causation and contradicts the well-established fact that severe widespread health impacts have resulted from exposures to 9/11 smoke and dust,” Flynn and Melius write. They note federal programs are offering care to 67,000 people, including 2,800 cancer victims, whose illnesses are certified as tied to the attacks.

Another panel notes federal and city officials “were criticized for allegedly not providing timely and accurate information about air quality in Lower Manhattan.”

The EPA’s Inspector General was among those who concluded government officials misled New Yorkers about air quality.

A third panel cites findings that dust from building materials, industrial chemicals, electronics and jet fuel residue was “hazardous.”

Use of quotation marks around the word unnecessarily questions the established danger of the air, Melius and Flynn say.

Image of ambulance in Memorial Museum
The information in the museum exhibit is insulting to rescuers and survivors affected by toxic dust and smoke at Ground Zero, says Kimberly Flynn, who chairs a committee of 9/11 survivors.

The sick “have to read on a museum wall that they only claim they are sick from breathing 9/11 toxins,” Flynn said. “That is just completely unacceptable. It’s an insult. It’s a lie. And the museum has to fix it now.”