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Med Anthropol. 2011 Jan;30(1):30-55. doi: 10.1080/01459740.2010.531067.

Left in the dust: negotiating environmental illness in the aftermath of 9/11.

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Texas Christian University, Sociology and Anthropology, Fort Worth, Texas 76129, USA.


The unprecedented toxic release in lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001 created one of the worst environmental disasters in US history, followed by a contentious and ongoing battle over the existence, etiology, and legitimation of World Trade Center-related illness. In this paper, I explore the enactment of epistemic authority by a complex array of stakeholders--government officials, scientists, physicians, environmentalists, advocates, journalists, and politicians--who have woven medical-scientific knowledge into their competing agendas and platforms. Despite the scientific validation of environmental dangers, the clinical documentation of illness and the epidemiological substantiation of links between environmental exposure and illness onset, the political-economic interests of federal, state, and local bodies have often been privileged over the protection of public health. 9/11 illness is a "contested illness" enmeshed in politically charged disputes regarding the relationship of environmental toxins to disease.

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