Whitman Sued for Calling 9/11 Air "Safe to Breathe"

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A federal judge is allowing a class action lawsuit to go forward against the EPA and its former administrator, Christine Todd Whitman, for telling people the air in Lower Manhattan was safe shortly after the World Trade Towers collapsed. WNYC's Amy Eddings has more.

On September 18, 2001, as fires still smoldered at the the trade center, Whitman said the air in Lower Manhattan was "safe to breathe." She continued to reassure New Yorkers in the days and weeks that followed.

US District Court Judge Deborah Batts called Whitman's statements "misleading," and "conscience-shocking." She did not grant Whitman immunity from the lawsuit. Residents, students and workers in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn sued in 2004, saying the actions of Whitman and the EPA endangered their health.

They argue the EPA did not have enough information to make its claims about air quality, especially for indoor spaces contaminated by dust. The EPA says it's reviewing the judge's decision, and will vigorously defend itself against the lawsuit.

A Whitman spokesperson says the former New Jersey governor has no comment. Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller said the government had no comment either.