Secret Cold War tests in St. Louis raise concerns

Associated Press Modified: October 3, 2012 at 5:31 pm •  Published: October 3, 2012
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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.

Martino-Taylor became involved years ago when a colleague who grew up in the targeted area wondered if the testing was the cause of her cancer. That same day, a second colleague confided to Martino-Taylor that she, too, lived in the test area and had cancer.

Martino-Taylor decided to research the testing for her doctoral thesis at the University of Missouri. She believes the St. Louis study was linked to the Manhattan Atomic Bomb Project and a small group of scientists from that project who were developing radiological weapons. A congressional study in 1993 confirmed radiological testing in Tennessee and parts of the West during the Cold War.

"There are strong lines of evidence that there was a radiological component to the St. Louis study," Martino-Taylor said.

Blunt, in his letter to the Army secretary, questioned whether radioactive testing was performed.

"The idea that thousands of Missourians were unwillingly exposed to harmful materials in order to determine their health effects is absolutely shocking," the senator wrote.

McCaskill agreed. "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," she said in a statement.

Martino-Taylor said a follow-up health study should be performed in St. Louis, but it must involve direct input from people who lived in the targeted areas.

"Their voices have not been heard," Martino-Taylor said.

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