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Parasites on Ventilators?

A spectacularly heartless and witless opinion piece, authored by Jeff Stier and titled “9/11 Junk Science”, was published in the New York Post on March 24.

Stier claims “There is no evidence that exposure to ‘toxic dust’ at Ground Zero was responsible for any of the progressive illnesses alleged by the claimants and their lawyers.” He is saying that NONE of the illnesses is linked to the exposure of anybody who worked, even for many months, in the midst of the WTC pit, inhaling thousands of cancer-causing chemicals and dense concentrations of lethal particles.

He also asserts “the fact… that there is no credible evidence in the medical literature that exposure to Ground Zero dust can cause any chronic disease or condition.” He further states, citing a lung specialist, that “there is no scientific validity to the claim that asbestosis is a result of 9/11 exposure.” This is said, despite the fact that workers who do asbestos abatement on an infinitesimally smaller scale in private homes or office buildings must wear HazMat suits. That protection, and the work itself, are considered public safety imperatives.

Mr. Stier is livid that a judge recently threw out a settlement agreement that would have awarded these workers, many of whom became gravely ill in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, far less payment than would be reasonable. (Of course, even reasonable compensation could not do justice.)

Stier has an eye-popping, jaw-dropping theory to explain the motive of ingrate survivors who, during their protracted death throes, are seeking to provide their future heirs with a token financial “safety net.” What does he think is behind it? (readers — get your digitalis): He says that “the drive to ‘compensate’ them… is simply a push for a huge transfer of funds… to unions…”

Aha: a union ploy!!!

At least Stier has not yet thought of blaming unions for orchestrating the collapse of the towers as a trick to get union members for their reconstruction. Probably not, anyway.

I don’t presume to pass judgment on Stier’s apocryphal experts, but I know that in the past some other industries and corporations have recruited folks who were amenable to pimping their credentials and prestige in exchange for some position or benefit. Radio talk show hosts who give investment advice will, coincidentally and without disclaimers, recommend that their audience purchase the products of their advertisers.

Doctors have until recently and probably are still today, being retained by tobacco companies to undermine the research proving the mortality of cigarette smoking. Insurance companies deploy doctors to dredge up justifications for denying bone marrow transplants to kids. It sounds less mercenary because they’ve got the qualifications and are facile with the jargon.

Everyone has a price. Well, most people do. There are exceptions, but the scientists who support Stier’s argument are in my judgment not among them. In the aftermath of the Hiroshima blast they could be persuaded, if the right stock options were dangled in front of them, to attribute the leukemia clusters there to those infernal hot tubs the Japanese like to soak in.

Human nature is a mixed bag. It is realistic to expect some people will find or create any opportunity to “get over” on the rest of society. They will insinuate themselves into any potential windfall, the less deserved the more tantalizing for them. They will traffic in subterfuge, tap any benefactor and muscle their way to the public trough to cash in. Maybe they do it for the challenge, out of weakness of character, economic necessity, or just for the fun. But it’s an irresistible temptation for them. A validation.

But that is not the case with the majority of people who by their premeditated or spontaneous acts of heroism, signed their lives away to do good in this world by toiling in hell in 2001. They are not advantage takers or glory seekers. They are not parasites. They are not crybabies with mesothelioma. They are not scammers on ventilators. They should not be mocked, Mr. Stier.

I’m going out on a limb here, but I think I can guess the gentleman’s party affiliation and where he stands on health care reform. And unions.



  • 1 Bob Calder
    · Apr 1, 2010 at 10:14 am

    A friend who worked most of his career in asbestos defense, first for the insurance industry, then for manufacturers told me this:

    After examining government documents and hearing testimony year after year for over twenty years, he discovered the dangers of asbestos were well known prior to WWII and that the government deliberately put workers into positions of danger in order to complete work that was vital to the war effort.

    The government did not wish to treat these workers as veterans of the war effort as they should have.

    Further, it is a well known fact that people who work in dusty environments have a high risk of respiratory disease than the general population.

    Mr. Stier’s problem is that he conflates risk with certainty. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear he doesn’t support consensus science like humans causing global warming with CO2 because he doesn’t personally belch tons of it or that he may think influenza vaccinations are ineffective because he got the flu after one.

    The scientists you think are in the pay of defense lawyers may not be selling their reputations as you suspect. It is more likely that either 1. they are not “scientists” or 2. they are scientists who have questions about the contaminants people inhaled that need to be answered.

  • 2 Richard Skibins
    · Apr 2, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Jeff Stier worked in both the office of the Mayor and in Corporation Counsel’s office in the Giuliani administration in New York City. His motivation appears to be to save his former employer’s arse.