St. Louis Cold War Radiation Experiments May Have Caused Cancer

Local Professor's Study Led to Cancer Patients Coming Forward

Yahoo Contributor Network

Several families have come forward after hearing a college professor's report regarding Cold War radiation experiments done in the St. Louis area. Four siblings in one family died of cancer at relatively young ages. Two colleagues of Lisa Martino-Taylor's at St. Louis Community College-Meramec thought their cancers may have been caused by radiation testing. The Associated Press reports a study done by Martino-Taylor prompted further inquiries by Missouri's U.S. Senators.

How did the Cold War experiments come to light?

The AP story says the government claimed the tests were part of a biological weapons program. The government admitted to the tests in 1994, however the Army denied using radiation experiments that may have harmed Americans. Congress demanded follow-up studies to be done but no evidence has been uncovered that studies were performed.

Why St. Louis?

St. Louis was selected because of its resemblance to Soviet cities at the time. A fine powder made of zinc cadmium sulfide was sprayed into the air from planes and from atop buildings in the city around poor neighborhoods. Experiments occurred in 1953 and 1963, according to Martino-Taylor's dissertation.

What cancer patients have come forward?

Doris Spates told the AP she has cervical cancer. It was her siblings who died of cancer at young ages. Mary Helen Brindell has had four types of cancer. Spates' father died three months after she was born in 1955. That was two years after the first experiments. Both women lived in lower-income areas of St. Louis where the powder was dispersed.

How did the professor get information for her paper?

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.

How was this information made public?

Martino-Taylor presented her paper to the public in late September. KMOX reported the researcher, whose dissertation is a Ph.D. thesis at the University of Missouri-Columbia, said, "The powder was milled to a very, very fine particulate level. This stuff traveled for up to 40 miles. So really, all of the city of St. Louis was ultimately inundated with the stuff."

What did Sens. Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt say after the study was presented?

Both of Missouri's Senators used the presentation to send letters to Army Secretary John McHugh, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Martino-Taylor said she has not been personally contacted by the federal legislators but she believes public hearings need to be held on the matter.

William Browning, a lifelong Missouri resident, writes about local and state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Born in St. Louis, Browning earned his bachelor's degree in English from the University of Missouri. He currently resides in Branson.

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