Cate Jenkins was fired from job as chemist after accusing EPA of deliberately covering up dangers of 9/11 wreckage dust

Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Monday 7 May 2012

Dust from the Twin Towers caused chemical burns to the lungs of firefighters and other rescue teams.

A government scientist sacked for exposing the dangers to firefighters from the caustic air at Ground Zero in the days after 9/11 got her job back on Monday.

A federal court ordered that Cate Jenkins, a chemist at the Environmental Protection Agency, be reinstated to her job with back pay.

Her lawyer said the decision, although based on matters of legal process, amounted to vindication for Jenkins’s claims that the EPA had covered up the danger posed to first responders and others in lower Manhattan from the asbestos and highly corrosive dust that rose from the wreckage of the World Trade Center.

It was also a rare victory for whistleblowers, said lawyer Paula Dinerstein. “This doesn’t happen that often.”

Jenkins, who has spent more than 30 years at the EPA, was the first agency official to warn of the dangers of the caustic dust rising from the ruins of the World Trade Center.

The dust, which had dangerously high pH levels, was so corrosive it caused chemical burns to the lungs of firefighters and other rescue teams. Hundreds of workers spent weeks at the scene without protective gear such as respirators.

Subsequent research has shown as many as two-thirds suffered permanent lung damage.

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