A Better St. Louis. Powered by Journalism.
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Print
  • Email

Senators ask Army to provide answers on Cold War-era experiments in St. Louis

In Washington

5:27 pm on Thu, 09.27.12

WASHINGTON – Responding to a new study of a previously reported issue, Missouri’s U.S. senators asked the Army on Thursday to provide details of the potential health impact of – and the possibility of a radioactive component to – Cold War-era particle-dispersal experiments in St. Louis.

In separate statements, U.S. Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., expressed concern about news reports – based on a Ph.D. dissertation discussed at a forum this week by sociologist Lisa Martino-Taylor – that the Army’s studies of the aerosol dispersal of fluorescent particles of zinc cadmium sulfide in St. Louis in the 1950s and '60s may have violated ethics rules and could have had unintended health effects.

The Army dispersal experiments, first revealed – and widely reported by publications – in the 1990s, had led former U.S. Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, D-St. Louis, and other lawmakers to press for a study by the National Research Council. In 1997, the NRC found that exposure to the Army-reported levels of zinc cadmium (part of the compound that was sprayed) would not have been expected to cause lung ailments.

The report recommended follow-up research, mainly to determine whether the chemical compound might possibly break down into toxic components that could have been absorbed in the bodies of people who were exposed. But it is unclear whether those studies were done. On Thursday, McCaskill asked Army Secretary John McHugh to explain whether this follow-up research was conducted and what the results revealed.  

"Given the nature of these experiments, it’s not surprising that Missouri citizens still have questions and concerns about what exactly occurred and if there may have been any negative health effects," McCaskill said in a statement.

"The National Research Council recommended that additional studies should be conducted and it’s my goal to find out whether or not they were."

In a statement, Blunt said, "The idea that thousands of Missourians were unwillingly exposed to harmful materials in order to determine their health effects is absolutely shocking. It should come as no surprise that these individuals and their families are demanding answers of government officials."

In his letter, Blunt asked the Army to report on the specific areas exposed to the spraying, the health impact of exposure to the chemical compounds, and whether there was indeed a radioactive component to the testing in Missouri.

The lawmakers’ concerns related to news reports this week about Martino-Taylor’s research, which she discussed Tuesday at St. Louis Community College at Meramec. Examining documents obtained from Freedom of Information requests, she found possible links between Army experts who carried out the St. Louis tests and scientists who had been involved in a covert spinoff group of the Manhattan Project to develop the atom bomb in the 1940s.

While she found no direct evidence that St. Louisans were exposed to radiation in the aerosol testing, Martino-Taylor’s thesis explores the ethical implications of the testing and raises the possibility of a radioactive component.

Click here to read her dissertation.

On Thursday evening, Martino-Taylor said in a statement that "any real and legitimate investigation will include public comment and participation from former residents in the affected areas.  Their voices have not been heard."

Martino-Taylor added: "It would be very inappropriate for government agencies - some of which designed these tests - to conduct an investigation without availing themselves of the first-hand experiences of those residents who were directly affected."

The Army experiments in the '50s and '60s were part of a wider testing program related to the potential impact of aerosolized biological weapons – although no germs were actually released in the experiments. According to news reports, 16 of the tests were conducted in St. Louis in 1953 alone.

At the time, people who lived in the sprayed area – possibly including residents of the old Pruitt-Igoe housing complex in St. Louis, which has since been razed – were told that the Army was testing a smoke screen that might be deployed to protect the area in the event of an attack.

U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, whose congressional district includes some of the affected parts of the city, said Thursday that "it’s time for the Army to come clean and tell us the truth."

“The Army has never revealed the full story about this outrageous and irresponsible Cold War testing in the midst of our community," Clay said in a statement to the Beacon. "It’s unclear if the recommended follow-up testing was ever conducted, and if any long-term health risks exist."

McCaskill, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, asked the Army to “review whether any and all pertinent information related to the Army’s Cold War-era chemical testing in St. Louis has been made public. Transparency regarding this episode is critical to providing the impacted communities final resolution.”

No Comments

Join The Beacon

When you register with the Beacon, you can save your searches as news alerts, rsvp for events, manage your donations and receive news and updates from the Beacon team.

Register Now

Already a Member

Getting around the new site

Take a look at our tutorials to help you get the hang of the new site.

Most Discussed Articles By Beacon Members

Conference of American nuns will mull response to Vatican charges

In Nation

7:55 am on Fri, 08.03.12

Meeting in St. Louis next week, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious will have its first opportunity as an assembled group to consider what to do after the Vatican issued a mandate for change this spring. It calls on the conference to reorganize and more strictly observe church teachings.

The 'free' Zoo

In Commentary

7:51 am on Tue, 05.22.12

When a family of four goes to the St. Louis Zoo, they can be forgiven for not knowing it will cost them $60, $72 if they park. If they can't pay, the alternative is to tell the kids they can't do what kids do at the zoo.

Featured Articles

House sends Boeing incentive bill to Nixon

In Economy

12:55 pm on Fri, 12.06.13

The Missouri House easily passed legislation aimed at attracting production of the 777x, a move that wraps up a legislative special session that saw little suspense and few surprises. The bill now goes to Gov. Jay Nixon, who has strongly supported the legislation.

Gandhi inspired Mandela on South Africa's 'Long Road to Freedom'

In World

10:10 am on Fri, 12.06.13

Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday at the age of 95, was a towering moral figure of the 20th century -- along with Mahatma Gandhi. It was no coincidence that Gandhi and Mandela, whose paths never crossed directly, both embarked on their campaigns against discrimination in South Africa. It was when Mandela won election as South Africa’s first black president that Gandhi's influence became apparent.

Featured Articles

Regina Carter brings jazz and therapy to Children's Hospital

6:36 am on Mon, 12.09.13

One night, the violinist is taking bows before a standing ovation at Jazz at the Bistro. The next afternoon, some of her audience may have trouble standing, but the kids in the playroom at Children's Hospital were no less appreciative. “Jazz is medicine personified," according to a doctor who brings in the jazz musicians.

Encore: Dead before death

In Performing Arts

12:58 am on Fri, 12.06.13

For years , the author was certain he would never come to appreciate The Grateful Dead, let alone be a Deadhead. But little by little, he's come around. He talks about his conversion and relates a real evolution: by a musician who went on to play with the Schwag, a Dead cover band.

Featured Articles

Schlichter honored with St. Louis Award

In Region

4:57 pm on Tue, 12.03.13

The attorney has founded Arch Grants, which brings together nonprofit philanthropy and commercially viable opportunitiesto fund new business startups, and Mentor St. Louis, which finds adult mentors for elementary students in the St. Louis Public School System. He was the driving force behind the state's historic tax credit program.

BioGenerator sets open house to celebrate new digs for entrepreneurs-in-residence

In InnovationSTL

12:29 pm on Tue, 11.12.13

BioSTL's BioGenerator organization is on the move as its entrepreneurs-in-residence find a new home in 4,300 square feet of office and conference space in an old automobile factory. The blossoming program, which helps BioGenerator's portfolio companies to get off the ground, continues to pay dividends within the growing biotech community.

Ambassadors aim to soften rough landing for St. Louis immigrants

In InnovationSTL

6:34 am on Fri, 11.08.13

The St. Louis Mosaic Project is set to hold an orientation for its new ambassadors -- dozens of foreign and native-born volunteers who aim to help make the community a more welcoming place for those from other nations. Participants will be expected to do everything from visiting local restaurants serving international cuisine to having dinner with an immigrant to the area.

Recent Articles

More Articles

Innovation and entrepreneurial activity are on the rise in St. Louis, especially in bioscience, technology and alternative energy. The Beacon's InnovationSTL section focuses on the people who are part of this wave, what they're doing and how this is shaping our future. To many St. Louisans, this wave is not yet visible. InnovationSTL aims to change that. We welcome you to share your knowledge, learn more about this vibrant trend and discuss its impact.

Featured Articles

Regina Carter brings jazz and therapy to Children's Hospital

6:36 am on Mon, 12.09.13

One night, the violinist is taking bows before a standing ovation at Jazz at the Bistro. The next afternoon, some of her audience may have trouble standing, but the kids in the playroom at Children's Hospital were no less appreciative. “Jazz is medicine personified," according to a doctor who brings in the jazz musicians.

Featured Articles

Featured Events:

Upcoming Events

View Full Calendar

More About The Beacon Home