Radiation Experiments on the General Population
During the cold war, while preparing America for nuclear attack, thousands of US citizens were victims of over 4,000 secret and government classified radiation experiments. They were unethical, non-consensual, and probably illegal. These classified radiation experiments were conducted by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), the Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Health, Education and Welfare, (HEW), the Public Health Service, (now the CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Veterans Administration (VA), the CIA, and NASA.
Millions of people were exposed to radiation fallout from testing of more than 200 atmospheric and underground nuclear weapons. We’ve all heard of the military as well as the many famous actors that were given special viewings of the nuclear bomb tests and how they died from their radiation exposure from cancers. There were hundreds of secret releases of radiation into the environment and over populated areas, and there were over 200,000 “atomic vets” who worked closely at the Nevada test site in the 50s and 60s.
The human test subjects for specialized testing to receive radiation were mostly in a compromised or powerless position. Many were prisoners, some poor, pregnant, children, elderly, black Americans, and even mentally retarded. Many were soldiers or military personnel who felt they had to follow orders which we’ll discuss in a later article. In most cases, no informed consent was given and most of the time the subjects did not even know they’d been exposed to radiation.
Also affected were those called the “downwinders” of the nearby towns in Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado. The human and animal populations suffered the worst cumulative radioactive effects of fallout, along with their environments loaded with radioactive food, water, and farm products. Declassified AEC records (now DOD) from the 50s describe in one document that the people downwind of the Nevada test site were a “low use segment of the population.”
Government doctors and scientists tried to brainwash the public into believing a low amount of radiation was good for you. They totally ignored the truth that they knew that nuclear fallout could lead to an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, neurological disorders, immune system disease, reproductive abnormalities, sterility, birth defects, and genetic mutations which, like SV-40 monkey virus, can be passed on from generation to generation. A secret AEC document from April 17, 1947 revealed that physicians were aware of these radiation hazards but simply ignored them.
It stated, “It is desired that no document be released which refers to experiments with humans that might have an adverse effect on public opinion or result in legal suits. Documents covering such field work should be classified as ‘Secret’.”
Quite obviously these physicians ignored their sworn Hippocratic Oath promising that they would do no harm to their patients. And after 1947’s development of the Nuremberg Code of justice resulting from the Nazi war crimes trials after WWII, they most likely were breaking the law. The Nuremburg Code includes 10 principles to guide physicians in human experimentation. Go here for the 10 points of the Nuremberg code. Prior to the Nazi war crime tribunals, there was no written code for doctors other than the Hippocratic Oath, and lawyers defending the Nazi doctors tried to argue that similar wartime experiments were conducted with prisoners at the Illinois State Penitentiary where they were deliberately infected with malaria.
During the Nuremberg trials the AMA came up with its own ethical standards, which included three requirements: 1) voluntary consent of the person on whom the experiment is to be performed must be obtained; 2) the danger of each experiment must be previously investigated by animal experimentation; and 3) the experiment must be performed under proper medical protection and management. As we’ll see, the Nuremberg codes and the AMA Standards were totally ignored.
According to author Carole Gallagher’s photo-essay, AMERICAN GROUND ZERO: THE SECRET NUCLEAR WAR, many of the “downwinders” testified that the Public Health Service told them that it was their neurosis about the fallout that would give them cancer, especially if they were female. Women with severe radiation illness, hair loss, severely burned skin, were diagnosed in hospitals as “neurotic.” Other severely ill women were diagnosed with “housewife syndrome.”
When Gallagher asked a DOE spokesperson about the AEC/DOE’s practice of waiting until the wind blew towards Utah before testing nuclear bombs or venting radiation, in order to avoid contaminating Los Angeles or Las Vegas, the official answered on tape, “Those people in Utah don’t give a shit about radiation.”
Some of the secret experiments by the government included exposing Alaskan villagers to radioactive iodine in the 1960s; exposing about 800 pregnant women in the late 40s to radioactive iron to determine the effects on their fetuses; injecting newborn babies with radioactive iodine; exposing the testicles of more than 100 prisoners to cancer-causing doses of radiation that continued into the early 70s; exposing 200 cancer patients to high levels of radiation from cobalt and cesium, (the AEC didn’t stop this experiment until 1974); administering massive doses of full body radiation to cancer patients in Cincinnati’s General Hospital, at Baylor College in Houston, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York City, and the US Naval Hospital in Bethesda; exposing 29 patients at the University of California Hospital in San Francisco to total body irradiation (100-300 rad dose) to obtain data for the military; and feeding 49 retarded teenagers radioactive iron and calcium in their cereal during the years 1946-1954. These are only a few of the horrific experiments.
It was in the 90s that the plutonium experiments were exposed by reporter and Pulitzer Prize winning author Eileen Welsome, who wrote the fabulous book, THE PLUTONIUM FILES. It was a 10 year investigation as a newspaper reporter that led Eileen to write the book. I had the pleasure years ago of tracking Eileen down and having her as a guest on the Roger Fredinburg Show.
The plutonium experiments were performed under the auspices of the government’s Manhattan Project which brought together a revered group of scientists to develop the atom bomb. It was done in Oak Ridge, TN, only 12 miles from where I live, and the radiation contamination in our area of the country is legend. Plutonium was injected or fed to subjects and it is immediately toxic to the body unlike radiation exposure that will cause illness in time.
Plutonium was not the only radioactive element used on human subjects. The Boston Project in the early 50s included the use of radioactive strontium, polonium, radium and uranium. As an aside, radium was used in the making of watches so that the numbers and dials glowed. The women that painted these watches with the radium would put the brushes in their mouths to bring them to a point before dipping again into the radium. The results were devastating cancers of the jaw, tongue, mouth, throat and internal organs from swallowing so much radioactive material. More on the results of the Radium Company employees in New Jersey.
The public was unaware that plutonium was used in the two bombs dropped on Japan until after August of 1945. The government maintained that it was essential to do plutonium experiments in order to determine if it affected employees working on the government projects. Most of the tests were on unknowing cancer patients which started in the 40s. All the experiments were a dismal failure.
In 1997, the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research concluded: “Large numbers of nuclear weapons workers have received information which systematically understates their actual exposures because the dosages were not combines.” Yet the DOE denied that many human subjects had high exposures to radiation. Despite the experimenters’ protestations that the doses were low and therefore not dangerous, many of the experiments were designed to induce harm.
Ebb Cade was a black man who worked for a cement company in Oak Ridge, TN. On his way to work with his brothers and fellow workers one morning, they passed a stalled government truck in their lane only to plow into an oncoming dump truck. Ebb was taken to the Oak Ridge Army Hospital. Ebb’s nose and lip were cut; his right kneecap, forearm, and his left femur were fractured. Other occupants injuries were not known, but the driver of the vehicle spent 9 months in the hospital. Los Alamos chemist, Wright Langham (they were working with plutonium) sent Dr. Hymer Friedell detailed instructions for an injection into Ebb Cade of plutonium. Five days after the injection, and nearly three weeks after the accident, Ebb’s bones were set. The timing of his surgery was so they could take bone samples from Ebb after the plutonium had circulated in his body. Cade developed yellow jaundice at the end of his hospital stay, and although he seemed to heal properly, only 8 years later he died at 63 of heart failure. The rest of his family outlived him by decades.
1- The Plutonium Files: America’s Secret Medical Experiments in the Cold War by Eileen Welsome (direct quotes included)
2- The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg Code by J. Katz
3- American Ground Zero: The Secret Nuclear War by C. Gallagher
4- A Higher Form of Killing: The Secret Story of Chemical and Biological Warfare by R. Harris and J. Paxman