Former EPA Chief Whitman On Hot Seat Over 9/11 Air

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Former EPA Chief Whitman On Hot Seat Over 9/11 Air
Ground Zero Workers Head To D.C. To Protest

See Also -- Slideshow: The World Trade Center Remembered's 9/11 Special Report

Magee Hickey

(CBS) NEW YORK Lawmakers in Washington are holding a health hearing Monday about environmental issues at Ground Zero.

Former Environmental Protection Agency chief Christine Todd Whitman is expected to testify about what she knew about air quality in lower Manhattan in the weeks after the terrorist attacks.

Dozens of first responders boarded buses in Manhattan early Monday morning for the long trip to Washington, D.C., to make their voices heard.

They are demanding prison time for Whitman, and are scheduled to join a protest march at 1 p.m. Monday.

Nearly six years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Christie Whitman must finally answer some very tough questions at a congressional hearing about 9/11 health issues and air quality.

Specifically, Rep. Jerry Nadler, who is moderating the hearing, wants to know how in the week after September 11, 2001, Whitman could have assured New Yorkers, "Their air is safe to breathe, and their water safe to drink."

In hindsight, we know now of the deadly toxic soup that the collapse of the twin towers and the ensuing fires created. Thousands of tons of asbestos, lead, chromium, benzene, PCBs, dioxins and other carcinogens -- to name only a few -- filled the air.

We also know that hundreds, perhaps thousands of first responders, recovery workers and residents are sick and dying because of the aftermath of 9/11.

The former head of the EPA blames former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his staff for not adequately protecting police officers, firefighters and other workers at Ground Zero.

Whitman claims that the city should have made the workers wear respirators. She says her agency called the mayor's staff daily and was frustrated when the workers didn't wear them.

But Giuliani, who is now running for president, disputes Whitman's claim. A deputy mayor of his is calling Whitman's remarks "revisionist at best."

A study of more than 20,000 people by Mount Sinai Medical Center found that in the months and years after the attacks, 70 percent of Ground Zero workers suffered some sort of respiratory illness.