Thursday, October 4, 2012

Report: US Army Tested Chemical (and Possibly Radioactive) Weapons on St. Louis in 1950s

Sociologist Lisa Martino-Taylor at St. Louis Community College says they may have been radioactive. There is no mention of what radioactive particles, if any, were mixed with zinc cadmium sulfide and sprayed from the rooftops by the US army.

But AP report below mentions one former resident recalling having a powdery substance dumped on her and her friends by the Army planes as they were playing on the street.

From AP News (10/4/2012; emphasis is mine):

ST. LOUIS — Doris Spates was a baby when her father died inexplicably in 1955. She has watched four siblings die of cancer, and she survived cervical cancer.

After learning that the Army conducted secret chemical testing in her impoverished St. Louis neighborhood at the height of the Cold War, she wonders if her own government is to blame.

In the mid-1950s, and again a decade later, the Army used motorized blowers atop a low-income housing high-rise, at schools and from the backs of station wagons to send a potentially dangerous compound into the already-hazy air in predominantly black areas of St. Louis.

Local officials were told at the time that the government was testing a smoke screen that could shield St. Louis from aerial observation in case the Russians attacked.

But in 1994, the government said the tests were part of a biological weapons program and St. Louis was chosen because it bore some resemblance to Russian cities that the U.S. might attack. The material being sprayed was zinc cadmium sulfide, a fine fluorescent powder.

Now, new research is raising greater concern about the implications of those tests. St. Louis Community College-Meramec sociology professor Lisa Martino-Taylor's research has raised the possibility that the Army performed radiation testing by mixing radioactive particles with the zinc cadmium sulfide, though she concedes there is no direct proof.

But her report, released late last month, was troubling enough that both U.S. senators from Missouri wrote to Army Secretary John McHugh demanding answers.

Aides to Sens. Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt said they have received no response. Army spokesman Dave Foster declined an interview request from The Associated Press, saying the Army would first respond to the senators.

The area of the secret testing is described by the Army in documents obtained by Martino-Taylor through a Freedom of Information Act request as "a densely populated slum district." About three-quarters of the residents were black.

Spates, now 57 and retired, was born in 1955, delivered inside her family's apartment on the top floor of the since-demolished Pruitt-Igoe housing development in north St. Louis. Her family didn't know that on the roof, the Army was intentionally spewing hundreds of pounds of zinc cadmium sulfide into the air.

Three months after her birth, her father died. Four of her 11 siblings succumbed to cancer at relatively young ages.

"I'm wondering if it got into our system," Spates said. "When I heard about the testing, I thought, 'Oh my God. If they did that, there's no telling what else they're hiding.'"

Mary Helen Brindell wonders, too. Now 68, her family lived in a working-class mixed-race neighborhood where spraying occurred.

The Army has admitted only to using blowers to spread the chemical, but Brindell recalled a summer day playing baseball with other kids in the street when a squadron of green Army planes flew close to the ground and dropped a powdery substance. She went inside, washed it off her face and arms, then went back out to play.

Over the years, Brindell has battled four types of cancer — breast, thyroid, skin and uterine.

"I feel betrayed," said Brindell, who is white. "How could they do this? We pointed our fingers during the Holocaust, and we do something like this?"

Martino-Taylor said she wasn't aware of any lawsuits filed by anyone affected by the military tests. She also said there have been no payouts "or even an apology" from the government to those affected.

The secret testing in St. Louis was exposed to Congress in 1994, prompting a demand for a health study. A committee of the National Research Council determined in 1997 that the testing did not expose residents to harmful levels of the chemical. But the committee said research was sparse and the finding relied on limited data from animal testing.

It also noted that high doses of cadmium over long periods of exposure could cause bone and kidney problems and lung cancer. The committee recommended that the Army conduct follow-up studies "to determine whether inhaled zinc cadmium sulfide breaks down into toxic cadmium compounds, which can be absorbed into the blood to produce toxicity in the lungs and other organs."

But it isn't clear if follow-up studies were ever performed. Martino-Taylor said she has gotten no answer from the Army and her research has turned up no additional studies. Foster, the Army spokesman, declined comment.

(full article at the link)

For UK's Daily Mail, there seems to be no doubt it was "radioactive" ("Revealed: Army scientists secretly sprayed St Louis with 'radioactive' particles for YEARS to test chemical warfare technology", 10/4/2012). Daily Mail's article has a bit more about "radioactive materials":

However, Professor Martino-Taylor believes the documents she's uncovered, prove the zinc cadmium silfide was also mixed with radioactive particles.

She has linked the St Louis testing to a now-defunct company called US Radium. The controversial company came under fire, and numerous lawsuits, after several of its workers were exposed to dangerous levels of radioactive materials in its fluorescent paint.

'US Radium had this reputation where they had been found legally liable for producing a radioactive powdered paint that killed many young women who painted fluorescent watch tiles,' said Professor Martino-Taylor.

In her findings, one of the compounds that was sprayed upon the public was called 'FP2266', according to the army's documents, and was manufactured by US Radium. The compound, also known as Radium 226, was the same one that killed and sickened many of the US Radium workers.

The Army has admitted that it added a fluorescent substance to the 'harmless' compound, but whether or not the additive was radioactive remains classified.

Radium 226's half life is 1,600 years. It is an alpha emitter, so unless you inhale it... uh... the residents did, didn't they?

Radium 226 was also the radioactive material found in several locations in Setagaya-ku, Tokyo in October and November last year. (See my post.)

(H/T reader 'La terra non ha uscite di emergenza' for Daily Mail article)


Maju said...

I read and commented on this on the 28th. I compared it with Dr. Mengele because, as you can imagine, the blocs sprayed were of Working Class citizens, mostly blacks. Something no report seems to emphasize enough.

On one side sincerely and deeply outraged, on the other side not surprised at all. They did conduct other biological and radioactive experiments among African Americans, Guatemalans or just rank-and-file soldiers. No surprise here: state secrets protect the Mengeles of the world.

La terra non ha uscite di emergenza. said...

The Manhattan-Rochester Coalition, research on the health effects of radioactive materials, and tests on vulnerable populations without consent in St. Louis, 1945--1970
by Martino-Taylor, Lisa, Ph.D., UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI - COLUMBIA, 2011, 838 pages; 3515886
Toxicologic Assessment of the Army's Zinc Cadmium Sulfide Dispersion Tests (1997)

Anonymous said...

I was just reading about this elsewhere. It doesn't surprise me, and not just because I'm pretty certain I'd heard about it before. If not, it was something similar, like this:

I wish I could say I was surprised that there never seems to be much of an outcry to these things, but that's not surprising either.

I mean, if you think about it, how do they go about testing everything? It'd be considered war if they tested it on enemy countries. It has to be their allies or their own citizens.

If it stays confidential, nobody would think anything of the symptoms until it's too late, and by then it's virtually impossible to gather evidence and prove that the testing was responsible for causing any ill effects.

They probably also justify it as necessary for national security. "Be proud that you died for your country", and all that. "You live on our land, so we can do whatever we like to you".

Anonymous said...

This is just one of many dangerous covert tests done by the government I wouldn't doubt it had a radioactive component it would make it easier to trace dispersion ratios. Hanford had what they called a "green run" where they processed nuclear fuel 16 days hot out of the reactor that released copious amounts of I-131 across the countryside without warning. This was done to calibrate "Constant Phoenix" radiation detection systems used to determine USSR nuclear activity.

During the Clinton administration Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary released 1000's of secret DOE documents that showed the US government in conjunction with big name universities, hospitals, schools and prisons conducted radiation experiments on unsuspecting private citizens without their informed consent. Never mind that just a few years before some Nazi's Drs. were convicted of war crimes specifically because of all the human experiments they conducted without informed consent. To add injury to insult some of the Drs. conducting these experiments in the US were pardoned war criminals brought over during "Operation Paperclip". There is a book titled "The Plutonium Files" by Eileen Welsome that covers the story behind some of the documents O'Leary released it paints a very depressing picture of the state of Medical ethics in the US during and after WWII.

It's one thing when the military does something inhuman in the name of the greater good you kind of expect that but you shouldn't have to wonder if your private doctor is exposing you to stuff "just to see what happens". These people took an oath to do no harm but that oath is as weak as a nuclear power stress test in the face of all the money to be made in the name of security.

Anonymous said...

And we'll probably never hear all the details of such experiments and abuse in countries where the press is not free.

Maju said...

Anon: are you trying to dismiss the crime because the "free press" was able to access the archives more than 30 years after it actually happened? I mean: the crimes of Hitler or even Stalin were known much earlier than that.

If you use "free press" as excuse for censorship and secrecy and the worst of crimes, if you use "democracy" as an excuse for cruel repression and slavery against citizens and foreigners alike... you are almost justifying the worst of dictators, because even those did not get away as easily as some "demo-nazis", like the criminals who did this.

There should not be an inquire: the culprits should be shackled and sent to Guantanamo, even if they are 85 years old now, where they would enjoy the best of "democracy".

La terra non ha uscite di emergenza. said...

It is urgent do/found spectrometer analysis of St.Louis "aerosolized" soil. Only this can solve the "radioactive question." Somebody know something ?

La terra non ha uscite di emergenza. said...

Anonymous said...

It looks like the truth is hidden in a report titled "Behavior of Aerosol Clouds within Cities... April 1954,".

"Martino-Taylor sent out 40 Freedom of Information Act requests to various U.S. government agencies to get data for her paper. A paralegal at the Aberdeen Proving Ground provided the researcher with troves of data through which she sifted. Some reports refused to be declassified, including one entitled "Behavior of Aerosol Clouds within Cities... April 1954," which summarized the findings of sprayings in St. Louis.

La terra non ha uscite di emergenza. said...

UK too...

Keen said...

So it was the Russians we needed to fear, and before that Mengele !! I wonder what other Operation Paperclip residue still infects the US.

Anonymous said...

I started reading the UK paper executive summary that terra linked. It sounds strangely familiar.

"They correspond in aggregate to about 10 μg cadmium over the eight years of testing. This is the amount of cadmium that is inhaled in a normal urban environment in a period of between 12 and 100 days (or from smoking a total of 100 cigarettes)."

Cigarettes. Or bananas.

La terra non ha uscite di emergenza. said...

Lawrence Journal-World - Oct 12, 1961,919091&dq=st+louis+radioactivity&hl=en

Miami News - Apr 13, 1959,3710061&dq=st+louis+radioactivity&hl=en

Reading Eagle - Sep 23, 1963,3509765&dq=st+louis+radioactivity&hl=en

Atomfritz said...

Thank you, Ex-SKF, contributors and commenters lighting up this very dark topic!

I have to admit that at the beginning I began to think of conspirationist theories, but the quality of the sources and the plethora of "experiments" and the number of victims makes me sometimes think the actual Dr. Mengele was only one of hundreds (or thousands?), spread over many nations.

But, poisoning their own peoples instead of internees, I think even Nazis won't have done, as they had their prisoners at hand.
There seem to exist people more ruthless than Nazis...

And the worst of all, this "experimenting madness" probaby still continues with all possible current "leading edge" mass killing technologies, (almost) completely quietly.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, everyone is quick to assume that everything is a "conspiracy theory" and dismiss it. But this is the reality. People conspire against others all the time. No amount of denial can change that.

It's not that the U.S. doesn't do these things, they're just better at hiding it.

Anonymous said...

conspire = con (together) + spire (breathe). If more than one person breathe together, that's conspiracy by definition.

Branding things as "conspiracy" is intellectual laziness and lack of curiosity, and it's a form of self-censorship, in my book.

Anonymous said...

PLEASE! I think someone has been called a conspiracy nutter one too many times and the words conspiracy theory dives them over the edge. Atomfritz isn't talking about "breathing together" most people know what he means by "conspiracy theory". I've got news for you until you have actual proof of something it resides in the realm of conspiracy theory especially when it is found on the internet.

so anon 6:01pm and 6:19 pm waste their time investigating if the the earth is hollow or the "fact" Germany and Japan exploded atomic weapons before the end of the war? Have you found the secret Nazi Moon base yet? Oh, that's right no one ever went to the moon that was a hoax. The fact that people conspire against others all the time doesn't prove jack it shouldn't give you license to assume without corroboration unless you're foolish. Branding things as "conspiracy" is a reaction to intellectual laziness not the other way around. What it says is you are making things up prove it. Generally the proof offered is an echo chamber of the same story with no real evidence to back it up.

Atomfritz didn't even call it a conspiracy theory he said he ALMOST thought that but after further research weighing the "quality of the sources and the plethora of "experiments"" he changed his position. So since Atomfritz wants to vet the information people want to give him flack about it? Personally I think the quality of Atomfritz's past comments speak for themselves.

I for one agree with him the US had their own evil-minded men that rescued war criminals on both sides of the war to gain their twisted knowledge this in turn fed a fear that Stalin could be worse. Mutual fear drove an "anything goes" attitude on both sides that fueled insane research projects. The Mutually Assured Destruction fest first came to a head during the 1962 Cuba missile Crisis by that time both sides were poised to ruin the world. We are just lucky there are people like Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov who maintained their humanity under pressure to start WWIII. Arkhipov's sub the B-59 was trapped in a US "practice" depth charge attack the Captain thought they were under attack so he ordered a nuclear torpedo ready for firing. The actual decision to go weapons free required a unanimous decision from the top three officers on board fortunately Arkhipov voted no they surfaced and the world still exists.

Anonymous said...

Fun Fact about St. Louis according to this site St. Louis is full of radon even more so than the rest of Missouri. If they did use a Radium tracer they picked a good place to lose its decay products in the background.

'Radon levels in St. Louis area homes are higher than the typical levels in Missouri; and Missouri radon levels are higher that the entire United States average.

In a 1995 study of 2,224 St. Louis area homes, it was found that 20.0% of them had radon levels exceeding 4.0 pCi/L. That means 1 out of every 5 homes showed elevated radon levels. The study found that the average radon level in St. Louis is 3.1 pCi/L. Homes in the St. Louis area have been found with radon levels exceeding 100.0 pCi/L.

Percentage of homes with radon levels exceeding the EPA's Action Level:

US Homes 6.7% over 4.0 pCi/L

MO Homes 18% over 4.0 pCi/L

Anonymous said...

@anon at oct. 4, 7:35 pm:
"... I wish I could say I was surprised that there never seems to be much of an outcry to these things, but that's not surprising either. ..."

Indeed, the lack of outcry is not surprising. It is much easier to dismiss such information as "conspiracy theories" or whatever than to critically approach it and process it with all its consequences. From my experience of discussing controversial subjects such as this testing with "the average Joe" in the US, people by default lean towards, "Our government would never do such a thing."
No matter how free the press may be in any country, it also takes an attentive, critical, and receptive audience. Without it, the Mengeles of the world will always get away with what they do.

La terra non ha uscite di emergenza. said...

Anonymous said...

This is an old, old story. The US Army did tests over US cities (later replicated by the FBI) to determine how biological and chemical contaminants would spread, in a situation where Russian saboteurs would try to kill a city or seven, ideally without starting nuclear war.

Some of the tests involved radioactive tracer substances. But I don't think they posed any danger to the general public in the minute doses that were needed - although exotic isotopes were used, so they could be easily picked out from background radiation.

La terra non ha uscite di emergenza. said...

"I don't think they posed any danger to the general public" Can you proof this ? Have you pathological/mortality objective datas ? Have you radiological datas about spread quantities ? Thanks

Maju said...

(S)He can prove nothing. Actually, it is most likely that the Anon who said that is one of those paid Internet intoxication agents, maybe working for Homeland Security or some other modern Gestapo variant, trying to dilute the legitimacy problem that knowing this ugly truth could pose for the Twin Party false democracy regime in Washington and all the rest of imperial NATO-plus. After all, even if they behave like Mengele, they do not want to be perceived as such.

I was not going to comment but just read what (s)he said: it's the most incredible story so far but with enough insistence and adequate control of major media and, say, Wikipedia (where political censorship is extreme) it can become a "truth" of sorts. They do that all the time. Obama? Romney? It does not matter: it is just the Pentagon who must persist.

La terra non ha uscite di emergenza. said...

Some statistical problems...

La terra non ha uscite di emergenza. said...

2 BILLION Dementia Patients? Medical Establishment Shocked by At-Risk Numbers on the Horizon
"Beyond comparison with anything that has been faced during the entire history of humanity," leading doctor says.

Drew Slinger said...

Thanks for posting this. We've been wondering about chemical testing for a while now. It's interesting how much of it goes on in the world.

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