The Independent of London reports that Hugh Kaufman, an EPA official, has said that New Orleans and the surrounding area will probably not be safely habitable for a decade and the “inept political hacks” (aka: the Bush administration and its underlings) are covering up the true danger.
It’s fitting that this story was printed on September 11th, the anniversary of another horrific US tragedy. September 11th’s lower Manhattan was also found to be unsafe for residents and workers and clean up crews. The Bush administration was also accused of covering up the danger. In the days and weeks and months following the fall of the towers, the EPA’s Christine Whitman and New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani assured the people of NYC that “their air [was] safe to breathe and their water [was] safe to drink.” However the large quantities of asbestos, lead, benzene, furans, mercury, dioxins and dust that were found in lower Manhattan were anything but safe. Since 9.11, people have gotten “unexplainable” illnesses. Adult asthma among relief workers and residents has become common. Children have gotten sick. Undoubtedly, the powers that be were trying to return things to normal as quickly as possible. But, you can’t get things back to normal in an environment that is noxious. That makes it categorically abnormal.
As bad as the situation in lower Manhattan was, the toxic cesspool in New Orleans and the surrounding vicinity will be much worse because the 66 chemical plants in the area known as “Cancer Alley,” in addition to the toxins from the homes and businesses that have spilled their contents, have created a toxic deposit unlike any other.
George Bush tells us “America will overcome this ordeal, and we will be stronger for it.” If in the Bush lexicon the phrase “stronger for it “means “a country that is going to hell in a hand basket with me merrily clutching the handle,” then certainly we’ll all be stronger. And if by strength he really means the decision to move people back in to the Gulf Coast, assuming we can move people back in, when it is still filled with toxins that will almost assuredly poison them, weakening them physically and financially and psychologically for decades and lifetimes to come, will actually make them stronger then, yeah, they’ll be stronger. Veritable pillars of strength.
The Bush administration’s denial and minimization of how toxic our world is becoming should come as no surprise. In the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, it denies global warming and industry-caused pollution as it weakens environmental standards for those same industry friends. There are many documented examples of the Bush administration firing, demoting or reprimanding those that dare to speak out with the truth.
Environmental Health News, a not-for-profit organization founded to help increase public understanding of the emerging scientific links between environmental exposures and human health, aggregates stories in mainstream newspapers from around the world. Some examples: “Mercury in the Air is High Downwind of Mines,” “Report Finds Asbestos Risk in 15 States,” “US Rice May Carry an Arsenic Burden,” “Annual Feast of Salmon is Loading Bears with Pollutants,” “Concern Grows About Antibiotic Use in Food,” “Removing Pharmaceuticals, Hormones and Cosmetics from Tap Water,” “Alarm Grows Over Pesticide Threat in Nurseries,” “Study Refineries Put Millions at Risk,” “Will Colorado River Be Tapped Out?” “Disease Traced to Extreme Weather,” “Droughts, Twisters and Floods: What on Earth Has Happened to Our Weather?”
And those are just a few from a single day.
The Bush administration is making unfit for human or animal consumption the very stuff we all must have to exist air, water and food. And while Bush poisons us with one hand, he devalues us with the other. As Katrina reminded us, if you are a poor person or a person of color you are invisible to this administration. As the evisceration of workers’ rights have shown us, if you are middle class, you are a worker bee who should be thankful for the dwindling scraps you are given. And as 9.11 and the Iraq occupation have shown us, if you are a Wall Streeter helping to keep the corporate wheels turning or a Gulf War veteran suffering the debilitating life-long effects of depleted uranium, thanks and all, but you are yet another expendable cog in the Bush administration’s game of me, me, me, more, more, more.
Considering the toxic post-Katrina Gulf Coast, noxious post-9.11 lower Manhattan, the poisonous dumps near low income homes, the skies and lakes and rivers and plants and animals and humans filled with the pesticides, the endocrine-disrupting plastics and the deadly pollution belching out of our coal plants and our cars, it’s clear the most toxic thing out there is the Bush administration. Whether we become the stronger people Bush tells us we will be and recognize his disastrous policies are in fact the ordeal we most have to overcome remains to be seen.
CAROL NORRIS is a freelance writer, psychotherapist and political activist. Contact her at www.carolnorris.blogs.com