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Letter to Secretary McHugh


Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill is asking for answers from the Secretary of the Army following a new study into secret experiments conducted by the U.S. Army Chemical Corps in St. Louis and other communities in the 1950's and 1960's.

A sociology professor at St. Louis Community College, Lisa Martino-Taylor, this week presented research related to Cold War-era aerosol testing that the Army conducted with fluorescent particles of zinc cadmium sulfide, in order to track dispersal patterns, which were studied for the U.S. Biological Warfare Program.

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

The project came to Congress' attention in 1994, and a study by the National Research Council on the health risks associated with exposure to the ZnCdS tests was published in 1997. Although the study did not find evidence that the Army experiments were harmful, it recommended that the Army conduct additional follow-up research. McCaskill today wrote to Army Secretary John McHugh requesting more information about whether this follow-up research was conducted and what the results revealed.

"I share and understand the renewed anxiety of members of the St. Louis communities that were exposed to the spraying of ZnCds as part of Army tests during the Cold War," McCaskill's letter reads.

The full text of McCaskill's letter appears below:

Dear Secretary McHugh:

Recent news reports in Missouri about an academic paper on potentially hazardous U.S. Army Chemical Corps tests in St. Louis and other communities in the 1950s and 1960s as part of the U.S. Biological Warfare Program have raised great concerns in the St. Louis community. The test reportedly involved the spraying of fluorescent particles of zinc cadmium sulfide (ZnCdS) in a densely populated community in St. Louis. In 1997, at the direction of Congress, the National Research Council issued a report on the health effects of human exposures to ZnCdS as a result of the Army's dispersion tests. The report found that exposure to the levels of zinc cadmium, an element of the ZnCdS compound, reported to have been sprayed during the Army's Cold War testing would not generally cause non-cancer health effects nor lung cancer. However, the Committee made the following recommendations:

The Army should conduct studies to determine whether inhaled ZnCdS breaks down into toxic cadmium compounds, which can be absorbed into the blood to produce toxicity in the lungs and other organs; this would strengthen the database needed for assessing the risk from the substance, and would eliminate the reliance on estimates of exposure to cadmium or cadmium compounds.
When the results of the research become available, they should be reviewed by experts outside the Army to determine whether the subcommittee's 1997conclusions are still valid or should be modified.
I share and understand the renewed anxiety of members of the St. Louis communities that were exposed to the spraying of ZnCdS as part of Army tests during the Cold War. The impacted communities were not informed of the tests at the time and are reasonably anxious about the long term health impacts the tests may have had on those exposed to the airborne chemicals. It is also unclear whether all documentation about how the program was carried out has been released.

I ask that your office provide me with information about the extent to which the Army implemented the recommendations of the National Research Council study. I also ask you 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. I look forward to your prompt reply.

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