New York City’s heart stood still yesterday when a 24″-wide, 80-year-old steam pump exploded under the ground near Grand Central Station releasing huge billows of sulfery steam and fountains of rock, mud, and yes, particles of asbestos (insulation that the pipe was covered in). Prolonged asbestos exposure is a known carcinogen, and damages the lung.
So today, city workers are testing the air, the ground, and the clothes that people near the explosion were wearing, assuring us that if asbestos is in the air it’s at a level that won’t hurt anyone.
Obviously, the people asbestos usually kills are workers involved in its own manufacture. But the memories of the lies city officials told rescue workers and people working near the two Trade Towers are still raw and painful from the aftermath of 9/11. And this episode awakens all that. They should acknowledge that. The wounds are far from healed. And Con Ed (NY’s utility company) lied once before, when the same thing happened in 1989. AND, today police officers wore pink air-filtering masks in areas where civilians walked bare-faced.
I lie to my children occasionally when their peace of mind warrants it, but the citizens of New York deserve honest communication. If officials are so focused on keeping the peace, so fearful of lawsuits and claims, if they try to only soothe us like mother wrens on a nest, what relationship are we to have if the going ever really gets rough?
What do you think? (I was raised within an alcoholic household where unacceptable behavior was ignored or even advanced as perfectly normal, so I am sensitive to falsehoods being passed off as the truth. Can you relate?)