A Kinder, Gentler Response
I'd probably normally go nuclear on a post like this, but it's been brought home to me that maybe engaging the Truthers respectfully isn't always a lost cause. Over at Truth Action, in the thread on Professor Jones, Snowcrash quotes me from a post over at JREF:
Either the first responders will start dying in droves, the way Gold, Feal and Alex Jones claim, or they won't; it's a debate that will be settled in time and battled out in the annals of the New England Journal of Medicine.
He responds to my post rather harshly:
If only I could trade one 9/11 first responder's life for this despicable piece of ****.
Let me start out by saying that Snowcrash trimmed a crucial sentence from what I wrote:
If 9-11 conspiracy theories were just about the air quality, I'd let it go. Either the first responders will start dying in droves, the way Gold, Feal and Alex Jones claim, or they won't; it's a debate that will be settled in time and battled out in the annals of the New England Journal of Medicine.
What I was saying there was what I have said consistently. I don't know if the claims that illnesses in the first responders resulted from the air quality at Ground Zero are true or not. I hope they are not, not because it would make Gold and Jones wrong, but because I don't want the first responders dying in droves.
It's a debate for the medical professionals to hash out over time, with studies that will certainly be published in respected periodicals like the NEJM. I should note that the most famous case of a first responder dying, James Zadroga, does not inspire confidence that the epidemiology will be separated from the politics. It is apparent from reading this article that Zadroga's death was not brought on by exposure to chemicals and fumes on the pile, but from injection drug use.
The type of material found in Zadroga’s lungs was also significant. Talc and cellulose are widely used pharmaceutical ingredients, Hirsch noted, but neither was considered a major respiratory hazard at Ground Zero: talc because it wasn’t found in the air in abundance; cellulose because it is not considered particularly hazardous. (The molecules are too large to pass through the elaborate filtering apparatus of the upper airway.) The absence of needle marks Hirsch deemed insignificant, because clean needles cause less scarring.
The truth of this is hard to gauge. Four months after meeting with Joe, I wrote to the Zadrogas’ lawyer, who agreed to fax me a copy of the results of James’s 2003 biopsy, the one that Joe had said showed extensive lung damage. The document that arrived was eight pages long: a comprehensive report on the various tests and their findings. But its import was unequivocal. The lungs had only minor abnormalities and showed no evidence of talc or cellulose. When I contacted a pathologist unconnected with the case to ask whether this could have been an oversight, he scoffed, explaining that, under the polarized light that labs use to spot foreign particulate matter, such particles shine out like stars in the night sky. Had the material Breton found in Zadroga’s lungs in 2006 been there in 2003, it would have lit up the lab.