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Researcher: Poor St. Louis Minorities Targeted for Secret Cold War Chemical Testing

Megan Lynch @MLynchOnAir
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Lisa Martino-Taylor, a professor of sociology at St. Louis Community College, overlooks the area where the Pruit-Igoe public housing complex used to stand in north St. Louis on October 15, 2012. Martino-Taylor has uncovered information that the United States Military conducted top secret experiments spraying zinc cadmium silfide with a radioactive additive on the predominantly low-income people that lived in the area in 1953-1954 and 1963-1965.  (UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

Lisa Martino-Taylor, a professor of sociology at St. Louis Community College, overlooks the area where the Pruit-Igoe public housing complex used to stand in north St. Louis on October 15, 2012. Martino-Taylor has uncovered information that the United States Military conducted top secret experiments spraying zinc cadmium silfide with a radioactive additive on the predominantly low-income people that lived in the area in 1953-1954 and 1963-1965. (UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) – A St. Louis researcher says she’s discovered proof that poor, minority neighborhoods in St. Louis were unwittingly part of Cold War chemical studies.

The aerosol was sprayed from blowers installed on rooftops and mounted on vehicles. “The Army claims that they were spraying a quote ‘harmless’ zinc cadmium sulfide,” says Dr. Lisa Martino-Taylor, Professor of Sociology, St. Louis Community College. Yet Martino-Taylor points out, cadmium was a known toxin at the time of the spraying in the mid 50’s and mid 60’s. Worse, she says the aerosol was laced with a fluorescent additive – a suspected radiological compound – produced by U.S. Radium, a company linked to the deaths of workers at a watch factory decades before.

Martino-Taylor says thousands upon thousands of St. Louis residents likely inhaled the spray. “The powder was milled to a very, very fine particulate level.  This stuff travelled for up to 40 miles.  So really all of the city of St. Louis was ultimately inundated by  the stuff.”

Martino-Taylor says she’s obtained documents from multiple federal agencies showing the government concocted an elaborate story to keep the testing secret. “There was a reason this was kept secret.  They knew that the people of St. Louis would not tolerate it.” She says part of the deception came from false news reports planted by government agencies.  “And they told local officials and media that they were going to test clouds under which to hide the city in the event of aerial attack.” Martino-Taylor says some of the key players in the cover-up were also members of the Manhattan Atomic Bomb Project and involved in other radiological testing across the United States at the time. “This was against all military guidelines of the day, against all ethical guidelines, against all international codes such as the Nuremberg Code.”

She says the spraying occurred between 1953 and 54 and again from 1963 to 65 in areas of North St. Louis and eventually in parts of South St. Louis. Martino-Taylor launched her research after hearing independent reports of cancers among city residents living in those areas at the time.

“At this point, further investigation by government bodies would be welcome. They investigated it in the past and congressional inquiry in the past was not very effective.” She says some of the documents she tried to obtain remain classified, while others she requested had information redacted.

Dr. Martino-Taylor will be presenting her research Tuesday at St. Louis Community College.  Click here for a link to the website.

For access to Dr. Martino-Taylor’s dissertation click here.

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