Documents Suggest Doubt About 9/11 Air Quality

According to the report, White House officials deleted a statement in an EPA news release that read: "Concern raised by these samples would be for the workers at the cleanup site and for those workers who might be returning to their offices on or near Water Street on Monday, September 17, 2001."

"The readings [in lower Manhattan] were showing us that there was nothing that gave us any concern about long-term health implications," Whitman said to "60 Minutes" in an interview to air Sunday.

"That was different from on the pile itself, at ground zero. There, we always said consistently, 'You've got to wear protective gear.'"

Whitman said that widespread criticism of her public comments about air quality had hurt her feelings.

"The last thing in the world that I would ever do would be to put people at risk. Of all the criticisms that I had in my career … this is by far the most personally troubling. You want to say, 'You're wrong.' We never lied," she said.

A spokeswoman for the New York regional office of the EPA denied the accusation that the agency had not been sufficiently diligent in disseminating accurate information about air quality.

"We released the results as soon we got them," said the EPA's Mary Mears. "We did everything we could to keep the public and the press aware" of what she characterized as a rapidly changing situation involving dozens of overlapping city, state and federal agencies.

The issue of who knew what and when has re-emerged after a startling study released Tuesday by Mount Sinai Medical Center, which found that 70 percent of first responders had developed respiratory problems or exacerbated preexisting ones, and that 61 percent had developed new lung problems.

City police and firefighters and other first responders have long complained that they were not adequately protected by their city.

Thousands are suing the city in a massive class-action lawsuit.

The nonprofit New York Environmental Law & Justice Project has filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the EPA, alleging that Whitman made materially misleading statements about air quality that endangered the lives of downtown Manhattan residents and ground zero workers.

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