In the Name of Science: A History of Secret Programs, Medical Research, and Human Experimentationby Andrew Goliszek
Do you know what has been done in the name of science?
In the Name of Science contains recently declassified information about voluntary and involuntary human experimentation done in the United States and throughout the world over the past fifty years---and shows us what may lie ahead.
--Documents top-secret research involving chemical and/i>… See more details below
Do you know what has been done in the name of science?
In the Name of Science contains recently declassified information about voluntary and involuntary human experimentation done in the United States and throughout the world over the past fifty years---and shows us what may lie ahead.
--Documents top-secret research involving chemical and biological weapons, often tested over civilian populations
--Illuminates human radiation experiments, shedding new light on one of the most shocking uses of human subjects in modern history.
--Reveals the CIA's extensive program in mind control and behavior modification, using never-before-published testimonials by individuals involved.
--Uncovers efforts by unscrupulous researchers and physicians to test dangerous procedures and useless drugs on human subjects in order to promote products, boost company stock prices, and secure research grants.
--Describes the origins and sinister history of eugenics programs and offers evidence of present day eugenics programs designed specifically to control global populations.
--Exposes a secret agenda by which the United States and European governments might exploit international treaties to control the global pharmaceutical and health care industry and criminalize the use of nutrition supplements.
--Documents how rapid advances in genetic engineering and molecular biology are leading us toward the creation of ethnic weapons.
- St. Martin's Press
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In the Name of Science
1THE CHEMICAL REVOLUTION: BRINGING BAD THINGS TO LIFENathan Schnurman, a seventeen-year-old sailor recruited to test U.S. Navy summer clothing in exchange for a three-day pass, never thought he would be gasping for air inside a gas chamber instead. The instructions he received were simple, and he didn’t think much of it at the time when he was ordered to put on a mask and some special clothing. During the experiment, the mustard gas and lewisite he was exposed to seeped through his mask, making him first nauseous and then violently ill. He demanded to be released, but was refused because the scientists conducting the experiment told him that it was not yet completed. Shortly after his second demand, he passed out. When he regained consciousness, he found himself lying outside the gas chamber and thinking how lucky he was to be alive.“I called to the corpsman via an intercom and informed him of my condition and what was happening, and requested I be released from the chamber, now,” Schnurman testified before a judiciary committee. “The reply was ‘no,’ as they had not completed the experiment. I became very nauseous. Again I requested to be released from the chamber. Again permission was denied. Within seconds, I passed out in the chamber. What happened after that, I don’t know. I may only assume that when I was removed from the chamber, I was presumed dead.”Another serviceman, Lloyd B. Gamble, had dedicated more than seven years of his life to the U.S. Air Force. When he volunteered for a special program to test new military protective gear, he was offered various incentives, including a liberal leave policy, family visitations, superior living and recreational facilities, and letters of commendation to be made part of his permanent record. During the first three weeks of testing. Gamble was given two or three water-sized glasses of a liquid to drink. He soon developed erratic behavior and even attempted suicide, but what he didn’t learn until eighteen years later was that what he’d received as a human subject was LSD. Even after he found out, the Department of Defense (DOD) denied that he’d participated in the experiments, although an official publicity photo shows him as one of the servicemen volunteering for a “special program that was in the highest national security interest.”Both Schnurman and Gamble were victims of a massive organized program that used both the military and civilians to carry out human experiments involving chemicals and chemical agents. All participants had been sworn to secrecy, like eighteen-year old Rudolph Mills, who discovered forty-six years after his own gas chamber experiments that four thousand other servicemen were essentially human guinea pigs for the Chemical Warfare Service (CWS). Though his health began to deteriorate while still in the navy, Mills did not learn that his lifelong physical health problems were likely related to mustard gas exposure until more than forty years later. According to a September 28, 1994 General Accounting Office report, the DOD and other national security agencies used hundreds of thousands of human subjects in tests and experiments involving hazardous and often deadly substances.This kind of duplicity doesn’t begin or end with the military, however. For decades, scientists working for corporations have been hiding research results, relying on flawed or fraudulent studies, or disregarding the health effects of chemical products in order to ensure a steady stream of profits. Because even a small change in data can often have a major effect on the findings of a study, it is sometimes difficult to determine whether or not researchers have acted ethically. Take the case of two scientists who had published a mortality study comparing cancer rates of workers exposed to a hazardous substance with those who were not and then later placed four exposed workers in the unexposed group. This simple switch increased the death rate in the control group while significantly decreasing the death rate in the exposed group. While the researchers contended that the reclassification was done in good faith, the incident triggered a dispute within the FDA as to whether an ethics investigation should or should not have been conducted.In some cases, there was widespread use of toxic chemicals on humans simply because no one knew how dangerous the chemicals were. After DDT (the potent insecticide that replaced lead arsenate) was developed, the U.S. government dusted millions of soldiers to prevent malaria and typhus. This miracle chemical that killed hundreds of different pest species was made famous in a 1948 Life Magazine photograph of a teenaged girl eating a hot dog surrounded by a cloud of DDT. What DuPont scientists did not realize until decades later was the extent to which their altered molecules and synthetic chemicals would accumulate in the environment and continue to show up in the blood of virtually every American twenty-five years after its ban.By just taking a look at the world around us, we quickly realize the impact chemicals have had on virtually every aspect of our lives. We’re literally surrounded by a sea of organic and inorganic compounds. Our bodies are composed of thousands of chemicals, each made from billions of molecules that react with one another and assemble into complex forms to make life possible. We eat chemicals, drink chemicals, breathe chemicals, put chemicals on and in our bodies, and take chemicals whenever we’re sick. From the moment we’re born to the day we die, we are so dependent on chemicals that we wouldn’t know what to do without them.Over the last hundred years, that dependence has become an addiction. Natural recipes handed down for centuries have been replaced by products promising everything from clean kitchen counters to cancer cures. Along comes the chemical industry, and we now have more than fifty thousand synthetic compounds—many of them unregulated, some of them miracles of humanity, and others more deadly than anything nature could come up with. If we’ve learned anything from history, it’s that natural products can often be deadly. When man gets into the act, they can become even deadlier.
Chemical Warfare AgentsIn 1978 London, Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian exile, stood patiently on a street corner and watched the stop-and-go of traffic while awaiting the next bus. The sky was overcast, and the steady stream of commuters made him less likely to think that anything out of the ordinary was about to take place. Perhaps he was thinking of his family back home or about what he had to do that day. But as he looked at the passing cars, he suddenly felt dizzy, lost consciousness, and collapsed. Within a few days he stopped breathing and died. His mysterious death remained a mystery until the autopsy was done, when investigators discovered a tiny pellet beneath his skin containing ricin, a chemical six thousand times more toxic than cyanide. The Bulgarian, they eventually learned, was a former agent murdered by the communist Bulgarian government with an umbrella gun supplied by the KGB and fired unnoticed in a crowd of passersby who never suspected that chemical warfare had been waged so easily.The use of natural chemicals has been reported for more than two millennia. As far back as 600 B.C., when the Athenians poisoned with helleborus root a river used by its enemy as drinking water, chemicals have been used as a means of waging war. In 200 B.C., Carthage defeated one of its enemies in a battle by leaving behind casks of wine tainted with mandragora, a root that produces a narcotic-like sleep. After enemy soldiers drank the wine, the Carthaginians returned and killed them. In one of the more bizarre examples, Hannibal, in a naval battle against Eumenes II of Pergamum, lobbed venomous snakes onto the decks of enemy ships to defeat the Pergamum sailors. In addition, as we know from historical records, arrows tipped with poison chemicals have been used for nearly as long as there have been bows to shoot them.Limiting the use of chemicals as weapons was suggested as far back as 1675, when a French-German agreement was signed in Strasbourg prohibiting the use of poison bullets. But within two centuries, large-scale development of chemical weapons had begun. In 1874, to stem the fear of chemical warfare, the Brussels Convention was adapted prohibiting the use of poison weapons. Twenty-five years later, an international peace conference held in The Hague led to a worldwide agreement outlawing the use of projectiles filled with poison gases. These agreements, it was hoped, would put an end to the development of weapons thought too horrible to be used against human beings. It didn’t.Modern chemical warfare actually started in the nineteenth century with incendiary arsenic bombs that sent plumes of poison smoke across enemy battle lines. Soldiers exposed to the smoke died a grisly death. Muscle spasms and severe vomiting were followed by cardiovascular collapse and death within a few hours of inhalation. The twentieth century proved no less civilized. After rumors of a new and deadly weapon invented by the Germans early during the First World War, the German Army bombed British forces in Neuve-Chapelle with dianisidine chlorsulfonate. A few months later, they attacked Russian forces with xylyl bromide. Both incidents were merely learning experiences and a prelude to what was to be the first large-scale chemical attack on April 22, 1915.That day, two hours before sunset, the Germans covered themselves head to foot in protective suits and released nearly two hundred tons of chlorine gas from canisters toward the French troops. The greenish mist was taken by a light wind, and within minutes began sinking into the four miles of trench lines where the soldiers experienced something for which they were not prepared. Panic ensued as the men began choking and gasping desperately for breath. When the battle had ended, more than five thousand soldiers had died from asphyxiation. It didn’t take long before both sides recognized the impact of chemical warfare and began using chlorine gas on each other while developing even more efficient and practical means of waging war.Phosgene, a choking gas like chlorine but ten times as toxic, was the next agent to be used. Blister agents were introduced in 1917 and have been used ever since, notably in 1980 to 1988 during the Iran-Iraq War. By the end of 1918, more than one-fourth of all artillery shells fired contained chemical weapons that killed about one hundred thousand people and injured more than a million. In the late 1930s, Germany first developed the G-series nerve agents, such as sarin. In 1936, mustard gas was used by Italy against the Abyssinians. Spanish troops used it in North Africa between the world wars. The Japanese killed large numbers of Chinese from 1937 to 1943 with lewisite, mustard gas, and various biological agents. In the 1950s, England developed even more lethal nerve agents, the V series, which includes the best-known nerve agent, VX.One of the most secret chemical weapons facilities of all was located near the Russian town of Podosinki. Code named “Tomka,” its mission was to develop poison gases to be delivered by artillery, aviation, and special gas projectors. Another Soviet poison facility called “Lab X” was operational as far back as 1937. According to Pavel Sudoplatov, deputy director of foreign intelligence (precursor of the KGB), the lab was used to develop poisons for assassinating enemies both inside the country and abroad. It’s not known how much of the research was shared with rogue nations such as Iraq, but evidence gathered during the Gulf War suggests that there was a good deal of cooperation between the former Soviet Union and Saddam Hussein, who had no fewer than five chemical and biological weapons factories when the United Nations (UN) inspected Iraq after the Gulf War.According to investigations by the Weekly Mail and Guardian, in the 1980s a company called Protechnik in South Africa was allegedly the largest chemical, biological, and nuclear laboratory in Africa and carried out secret bizarre experiments to test special bullets and heat-resistant clothing. According to a 1989 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) report, scientists at the facility worked closely with Israel in the 1980s to develop a chemical warfare capability. (The company has since come under new ownership and is no longer said to be engaged in such research.)Overall, more than three thousand chemicals have been tested for possible use as toxic weapons. In many cases, the agents were first developed as pesticides composed of organic molecules known as organophosphates and then adapted for use on human beings. According to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), ratified on April 29, 1997, there are now five recognized classes of chemical warfare agents:
Nerve agents: After contact with the skin and lungs, these highly toxic organophosphorous chemicals kill by disrupting metabolism and blocking nerve transmission. The first nerve agent, tabun, was developed in 1936 as a pesticide. VX is so toxic that a single drop the size of a pinhead on bare skin may cause death. Symptoms include seizures, vomiting, convulsions, muscle paralysis (including the heart and diaphragm), loss of consciousness, and coma. Death may occur in one to ten minutes. Examples include sarin (GB), soman (GD), tabun (GA), and VX.
Blister agents and lewisite: Also called vesicants, blister agents are absorbed through the lungs and the skin, burning lung tissue, skin, mucous membranes, the windpipe, and the eyes. There are few deaths from blister agents, but a large number of casualties. They damage the respiratory tract and cause severe vomiting and diarrhea. Examples include nine sulfur mustards (HD), three nitrogen mustards (HN), phosgene oximine (CX), and three lewisites.
Blood agents: Distributed by the blood to various tissues and body parts, these agents destroy blood tissue, thereby disrupting oxygen flow to the heart and causing suffocation. Examples include hydrogen cyanide and cyanogen chloride.
Choking agents: Absorbed through the lungs, choking agents cause fluid buildup in lung tissue, preventing the victim from breathing. Essentially, these chemicals cause drowning by inducing alveoli within the lungs to secrete a steady flow of fluid. Examples include phosgene (CG), diphosgene (DP), chlorine (Cl), and chloropicrin (PS).
Toxins: These chemicals are extracted from living organisms. Ricin, a protein extracted from the castor oil plant, is ounce for ounce more toxic than nerve agents. It acts by blocking the body’s synthesis of proteins. Saxitoxin, an organic chemical produced by blue-green algae and accumulated in the mussels that feed on it, acts on the nervous system.
More recently, and despite a series of treaties and agreements, chemicals and toxins have been used widely as both offensive and defense weapons. After World War II, the fear that some countries would actually use these weapons of mass destruction initiated secret research programs and prompted a series of open-air tests involving human subjects. Some of the chemicals and biological agents tested, referred to as “simulants” by the military, were released over populated areas and cities. Accounts of these tests are detailed in the next chapter.Neither international conventions nor worldwide outrage has mitigated the growing research and development thought critical in maintaining an advantage over rogue nations. Buttressing the argument is evidence that chemical weapons have been used during the past two decades in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Southeast Asia, Mozambique, and Azerbaijan. Today, with state-sponsored terrorism and experts willing to sell their knowledge to the highest bidder, it’s hard to know exactly who is sitting on large stockpiles of poisons, plagues, and lethal gases. According to the CIA, more than twenty countries are either developing or already have chemical weapons.The list is a “who’s who” of enemies, rogue states, and nations simply trying to keep up with threats by its neighbors. Besides the thirty thousand tons in the United States and at least forty thousand tons in Russia, stockpiles around the world are growing. Egypt was the first Middle Eastern country to use chemical weapons when it employed phosgene, mustard, and nerve agents against Yemeni Royalist forces in the mid-1960s. Israel began its program in the 1970s in response to the Arab chemical threat. Syria developed its own weapons in response to Israel. Iran’s program was started after Iraq’s use of chemical agents during the 1980–1988 war. Libya, which received its first chemical weapons from Iran, used them against Chad in 1987. Not to be outdone, Saudi Arabia got into the chemical weapons business and is now suspected of having its own arsenal. In response to regional tensions, China, India, Pakistan, Burma, North and South Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan have also developed programs they claim are strictly defensive.Unfortunately, at the height of what had been world paranoia about chemical agents, experts agreed that the only way to know the physiological effects of these agents was to use human subjects. A recent U.S. Senate staff report prepared for the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs acknowledged that in the 1940s alone approximately sixty thousand military personnel were used as human subjects to test two chemical agents, mustard gas and lewisite. Most of the subjects were not informed of the nature of the experiments, never received medical follow-up after their participation in the research, and were threatened with imprisonment at Fort Leavenworth if they discussed the research with anyone, including their wives and parents. In fact, not only were discharged personnel forbidden to talk about their experiences, they could not even describe their exposures to family doctors who tried to determine the cause of severe respiratory illnesses.Rudolph Mills, the eighteen-year-old navy seaman mentioned earlier, was one of many such individuals who testified about his experience before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “I had on an experimental mask and the navy was trying to determine if people wearing these masks could communicate with each other,” he recounted. “I was enticed to sing over the intercom … . No one ever told me that the mask became less and less effective against the gas with each use … . We were sworn to secrecy … . At the age of 43, I underwent a long series of radiation and later surgery to remove part of my voice box and larynx … . It didn’t occur to me that my exposure to mustard gas was responsible for my physical problems until June 1991, when I read an article in my hometown newspaper.”The harrowing tales had one theme in common: All told of veterans convinced that they had been lied to about the nature and dangers of the experiments. Testimony by fellow subject John William Allen was also chilling. Exposed to sulfur mustard several times in clothes that had become impregnated with toxic chemicals from previous experiments, he was removed from further exposure after passing out in the gas chamber and receiving many wounds as a result of the chemical. In a written testimony, he states, “The government has lied to us for fifty years over and over again. If I would have been shot on the front lines at least I would have had it on my record and would have received medical treatment.”The 1953 Wilson Memorandum (Appendix II), which adopted rules from the Nuremberg Code (Appendix I), was supposed to protect individuals from such harm and inform them of risks before they were to provide consent. But again, between 1958 and 1975, thousands of volunteers were recruited and experiments carried out as if those rules did not exist. Take the case of Ken Lamb, an airborne soldier who volunteered for an experiment under the new rules because all he wanted to do was collect on the promise of a three-day pass to see his fiancée in New York.Lamb recalls the day his commanding officer made the offer and his enthusiasm when he arrived at Fort Detrick, Maryland. He remembers sitting in a sterile, hospital-like room and watching as a researcher in medical garb placed a drop of liquid on his forearm. He immediately became nauseous and dizzy, and it took a while for him to recover from the numbness that spread through his arm and into his body. Before returning to his unit, he was ordered not to discuss the experiments with anyone and was never told what the liquid was. Not until he developed inoperable cancer thirty years later did he learn that army scientists had exposed him to VX. Recently, the Office of Veterans Affairs rejected Lamb’s claim for disability, citing no evidence of a link between his cancer and the experiments.A decade later, from 1962 to 1971, U.S. servicemen would be purposely subjected to a chemical that experts knew at the time to be one of the most toxic known to man. Agent Orange was an herbicidal 50:50 mixture of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T, which contained dioxin, a contaminant that does not occur naturally. Unlike the dioxin used by civilians, the military version was undiluted and sprayed at a rate of three gallons per acre in concentrations up to twenty-five times the manufacturers’ suggested rate. According to the Veterans Administration, as many as 4.2 million U.S. soldiers could have made contact with Agent Orange as a result of “Operation Ranch Hand.”Reaching a peak in the mid-1960s, the bulk of Agent Orange was sprayed from fixed-wing aircraft to defoliate the dense jungles where enemy soldiers could hide. Smaller amounts were released from helicopters, trucks, riverboats, and even by hand. Dr. James Clary, a former government scientist with the Chemical Weapons Branch of the Air Force Armament Development Laboratory, said, “When we [military scientists] initiated the herbicide program in the 1960s, we were aware of the potential damage due to dioxin contamination in the herbicide. We were even aware that the military formulation had a higher dioxin concentration than the ‘civilian’ version due to the lower cost and speed of manufacture.” In all, nineteen million gallons of undiluted Agent Orange were dumped on Indochina, with an impact on the environment and human health that is felt to this day.Soon after Operation Ranch Hand began, reports surfaced of health problems and significant increases in human birth defects. It wasn’t until April 15, 1970 that the U.S. surgeon general warned that use of 2,4,5-T “might” be hazardous to our health. But despite concerns by scientists, health officials, politicians, and the military itself about the toxicity of Agent Orange, the spraying program continued unabated until 1971. Recent studies by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) have proven that there are no safe exposure levels to dioxin and that exposed humans have a 60 percent greater risk of dying from cancer.Today a major Agent Orange scandal is brewing in Thailand. According to Thailand’s science, technology, and environmental minister, documents released by the U.S. ambassador reveal that the U.S. and Thai militaries secretly tested chemical weapons, including Agent Orange, from 1964 to 1965, then dumped the toxic remains in an area that was subsequently unearthed during construction of an airport runway. Soil samples sent to U.S. and Canadian laboratories found high levels of both 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T present. Because dioxins can spread so easily throughout the food chain, there’s now fear that the land, which has since been used for farming, may also end up being a toxic killing field.The United States was not alone in its use of soldiers for human experiments. A recent search of British documents has found that as many as twenty thousand soldiers might have been used as guinea pigs at England’s Porton Down testing station from 1939 to 1989 to test chemical agents. According to Alan Care, a lawyer representing a group of former servicemen, unwitting volunteers were tricked into participating as test subjects and were exposed to nerve gas, mustard gas, and LSD. “Most of the men,” said Care, “believed they were going to Porton Down for the purpose of common cold research and were in fact gassed with sarin.” Sarin, recall, is the same gas that killed twelve people and contaminated three thousand in the Japanese subway system, and was used by Saddam Hussein against his Kurdish population.During World War II, Porton Down, a top secret chemical weapons center in Wiltshire, geared up to counter the top priority menace of chemical warfare. Patrick Mercer, who had gone through the facility as an army officer, said, “There were a series of bunkers to which you were thrust from time to time to be gassed and to go through ghastly exercises underground wearing a gas mask.” Another soldier, Ronald Maddison, died after exposure to sarin. The whole time he was being gassed, he thought he was taking part in a program to find a cure for the common cold.Although British subjects were being gassed, researchers had known since the 1920s that mustard gas was absorbed through the skin and affected every organ in the body. However, they played that down so the military experiments could proceed. Professor David Sinclair, a Porton medical officer, described one experiment as follows: “When the grenade exploded or the armor piercing shot was fired (I always hoped it was properly aimed), shrapnel used to bounce angrily off the furniture, and after it had subsided I would push down the metal plate and the crew would take up their positions and attempt to drive off. I was the lucky one who had a respirator on, and I had to observe the reactions of the unfortunates who had not. The immediate effects included a feeling of grit in the eyes, followed by severe pain, lacrimation, and spasm of the eyelids.”The latest evidence linking exposure to chemical agents and health effects has shown up in Gulf War veterans, many of whom experienced unexplained neurological symptoms after coming home. As many as four hundred thousand U.S. soldiers were ordered to take the investigational nerve agent medication pyridostigmine bromide every eight hours for days, weeks, or months. A study by researchers at the University of Texas in Dallas found that even low levels of exposure to nerve gas and pesticides, when combined with pyridostigmine, may cause irreversible brain damage. Pyridostigmine also happens to be a nerve agent. The results confirm an earlier 1993 study by Dr. James Moss, a scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who found that the medication given to Gulf War soldiers caused the common insect repellent deet (diethyltoluamide) to become seven times more toxic than when used alone. Coincidentally, deet and other repellents were widely used during the Gulf War as protection against sand flies, scorpions, and other pests.Even more troubling is the fact that researchers had evidence as early as 1978 that neostigmine, a close molecular relative of pyridostigmine, causes profound physiological, electrophysiological, and microscopic disruption of nerve endings and muscles. Based on the published reports, some of these changes increase in severity over time with continued treatment. It was because of this concern that the Human Subjects Committee reviewing the studies considered the possibility of mentioning the possibility of death in the informed consent form. After some deliberation, it was decided that such a warning was unnecessary because death, they said, was not likely.That didn’t seem to matter a great deal to military officers, who forced personnel under their command to take pyridostigmine, whether they became intensely sick or not. For example, Carol Picou was a nurse who had been stationed in the Gulf for five months when she started taking the drug. By the third day, she developed incontinence, blurry vision, and uncontrollable drooling. The side effects became worse one hour after she took a pill but stopped after she refused to continue taking them. Her commanding officer ordered her to resume taking the pills for fifteen days, even watching to make sure she swallowed them. Currently, Carol Picou has permanent medical problems, including incontinence, muscle weakness, and memory loss.Similarly, Lieutenant Colonel Neil Tetzlaff had immediate side effects when he started taking pyridostigmine bromide on the plane ride to Saudi Arabia. His nausea and vomiting became so severe that he needed emergency surgery to repair a hole in his stomach. When he became ill, the military doctor told him to continue taking the pills because the doctor had no idea that nausea and vomiting were known side effects. According to Tetzlaff’s sworn testimony, the doctor acted as if the pyridostigmine was as safe as a cough drop. Other soldiers and pilots experienced respiratory arrest, loss of consciousness, abnormal liver function, irregular electrocardiograms, joint pain, sensitivity to chemicals, and anemia.Nurse Picou’s case was especially troubling because virtually every pyridostigmine study done up to that time excluded women. Scientists believed, based on other studies, that women would be affected differently; that women on birth control pills had different levels of neurotransmitters that would interact with nerve agents; that women in different stages of their reproductive cycles might respond more intensely; and that reactions might be unique in women who are menstruating or who have breast cancer. None of this kept the military from forcing women to take pyridostigmine, even when they exhibited symptoms indicative of serious health effects.Civilians participating in the Gulf War were also exposed without informed consent or information about potential side effects. DOD contractors and news media, for example, were given pyridostigmine without being told that the drug was experimental or that it was being administered in a regimen not proven effective or safe. Journalists and other nonmilitary personnel began experiencing serious medical problems similar to the Gulf War veterans, whose illnesses were categorized as Gulf War syndrome.The chief researcher of the University of Texas study, Dr. Robert Haley, has warned of “an epidemic of Parkinson’s disease coming out of Gulf War syndrome.” His colleague, Dr. Frederick Petty, adds that “some of these veterans are beginning to show early, subtle symptoms of brain disease. The question is whether, over time, these overstimulated brain cells will wear out and die. If so, these patients could develop degenerative brain diseases such as Parkinson’s.” According to the researchers, as many as eighty thousand Gulf War veterans may exhibit these symptoms within twenty years.If the evidence is substantiated, then in the final analysis military scientists and officers had ignored the Nuremberg Code, the Declaration of Helsinki (Appendix IV), and the requirements of informed consent that virtually all government agencies are subject to, and knowingly participated in human experimentation. Dr. Arthur Caplan, director of the Center of Biomedical Ethics at the University of Minnesota during the Gulf War, testifying before a senate committee, said that “these agents were used, as we have heard, in large populations for purposes other than those for which they were originally designed in some cases, and circumstances under which they had never before been tried out in the desert. This seems to me to cinch the case that what took place fell into the category of experimental, innovative, and investigational, and that makes them research.”Interestingly, the DOD has been desperately trying to make permanent the waiver of informed consent, arguing that “to not finalize it provides an arguable defect under the Administration Procedures Act and leaves both the DOD and FDA open to greater liability.” But liability is only part of the rationale. If the request is granted, it would also give the DOD unrestricted use of investigational drugs by military personnel, even though investigational status means that efficacy and safety have not been proven. As of now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not acted on the DOD’s request.Recently published findings by the National Academy of Sciences and the Department of Veterans Affairs conclude that the exposure to chemical agents has resulted in long-term effects, disabilities, and even death for participants. For decades the Pentagon had not only denied this but denied that chemical agent research ever took place. And though much of the secret testing has since been exposed, many documents remain classified to this day.
In Harm’s Way: Civilian Guinea Pigs and Chemical WeaponsSome eighty miles west of Salt Lake City lies a stretch of flat desert as serene and picturesque as it was when the Mormons first settled there in 1848. Every spring, cactus and wildflowers erupt with blossoms in a rainbow of colors that glimmer beneath the deep blue sky. The browns and grays of the rugged landscape are often stark but always beautiful in this section of the United States, which houses the Dugway Proving Grounds.Outside the million acres, much of it spread across the Great Salt Lake Desert, an ominous sign reads: WARNING: DO NOT HANDLE UNIDENTIFIED OBJECTS. REPORT THEIR LOCATION TO SECURITY. A single access road leads to the entrance of Dugway’s Proving Grounds, the vast expanse of its isolated 210-mile border patrolled mostly by air. It is this kind of isolation from the rest of Utah’s population that gives these facilities an air of mystery and kept what happened on March 13, 1968 a secret for more than twenty years.That morning, streaking across the sky, an F-4E Phantom jet locked on to its predetermined target and released more than a ton of the nerve agent VX along a narrow strip of ground. The next morning, farmers twenty-five miles downwind of the release, in an area called Skull Valley, noticed that their sheep were dying. By the time the count ended, more than six thousand animals lay dead from what was officially reported as unknown causes. And though the army paid one million dollars in restitution to the farmers, it didn’t admit for decades to open-air testing of VX, which experts testified had evaporated so slowly that it remained on the ground for days.Recently declassified documents reveal that 1,635 field tests were conducted with VX, GA, and GB from 1951 to 1969. In some tests, thousands of pounds of nerve agents were dropped but only a small percentage reached the ground. For instance, a March 1964 report revealed that in one spray only 4 percent of the VX dropped reached the test grid; in another test, recovery of VX from a high-wind speed test was less than 40 percent. Other open-air trials included more than 55,000 chemical rockets, artillery shells, and bombs and 134 tests to determine the hazard to personnel downwind. Some of the deadly agent drifted off the range and made its way to unsuspecting residents nearby. All in all, a half-million pounds of nerve agents was spread across the Utah desert.One of the more disturbing pieces of evidence that could link these tests with disease is the dramatic rise in neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis in counties either close to or that included Utah’s Dugway Proving Grounds. Besides tests of chemical agents such as VX, 328 open-air germ warfare tests were conducted, as were 74 airborne tests that spread radioactive particles. A study by the University of Utah concluded that Tooele County, where many of these tests had occurred, has a multiple sclerosis rate seven times higher than the national average. Utah itself has a rate twice that of the United States.Ray Peck, one of the residents of Skull Valley at the time, remembers the morning after the VX was dropped. According to the Deseret News, he woke up to find a layer of freshly fallen snow covering his land. It was so pretty and clean, he said, that he walked out into it, picked up a handful, and ate it. The tranquility of the moment was suddenly broken when he turned his head and saw some dead birds nearby and a rabbit on its side twitching for several minutes before dying. He didn’t know what to think, but suspected that something terrible had happened when the sheep began dying and an army helicopter landed in his yard carrying medical personnel to take blood samples from his family. Peck recalls coming down with violent headaches, numbness, and burning in his arms and legs after that day. His daughters have suffered from similar symptoms, as well as an unusually high number of miscarriages, which he attributes to VX exposure.The total number of square miles experts believe remains contaminated with unexploded bombs, rockets, and artillery shells, some of which still contain deadly agents, is roughly the size of Rhode Island. But despite the evidence of contamination and health problems, secret new military testing continues today. Scientists at Dugway Proving Ground are currently experimenting with toxic chemicals in the Melvin Bushnell Materiel Test Center, a thirty-million-dollar laboratory for simulating chemical attacks and testing protective clothing. Still being considered is construction of an entire mock city, complete with homes and subway systems, to facilitate practice of chemical warfare scenarios.
Beneath the Surface: Oceans As Toxic Military Waste DumpsShortly after World War II in 1945, a British merchant ship set sail toward the Baltic Sea. But instead of merchant marines, its crew consisted of British sailors; and rather than its usual fare, the creaking vessel was loaded with captured German nerve gas, phosgene, and arsenic-containing compounds. The destination, somewhere along the coast of Norway, was kept secret. The mission was to blow up the ship and send its deadly cargo to the bottom of the sea. Twenty such ships were conscripted into Her Majesty’s Service, each one laden with poison gas and sunk in the cold waters of the North Atlantic.The following year, the United States launched Operation Davy Jones’s Locker. For the next two years, naval ships sailed into Scandinavian waters on five occasions and dumped some forty thousand tons of chemical agents. Kyle Olson, senior member of the Arms Control and Proliferations Center, explained that those who dumped chemicals were simply following standard procedure. “Sea dumping was thought to be the quickest and best way to do disposal because the materials would be dissipated at sea,” he said. But according to Alexander Kaffka of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Chairman of the Conservation for Environment International Foundation, “Rules were often broken, which led to the most dangerous kind of dumping at shallow depths, in straits, and in areas of active fishing.” In fact, one of the major dump sites in the Baltic Sea has a mean depth of only 170 feet.The mass dumpings by U.S. and British forces continued unabated throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. After the British unloaded thirty-four shiploads of chemical and conventional weapons in the Norwegian Trench by 1949, they began Operation Sandcastle, a secret program in which cyanide, sarin, phosgene, and mustard gas were loaded onto merchant ships and scuttled eighty miles off the northeast coast of Ireland. At the same time, the United States began Operation Chase (Cut Holes And Sink ’Em), in which more than 50,000 nerve gas rockets were dropped 150 miles off the coast of New York and then later off the coast of Florida. Other U.S. sites included waters near California and South Carolina.In one of the last sea dumpings, the U.S.S. Corporal Eric Gibson was loaded with VX and sarin nerve gas canisters and towed two hundred miles from the shores of Atlantic City. As the naval ship sailed off, an explosion was set off aboard the Eric Gibson. Within minutes, the toxic munitions settled under 7,000 feet of water where they remain today. Most New Jersey residents or Atlantic City visitors looking out at the waves lapping the coastline have no clue what lies beneath.Between 1945 and 1970, more than one hundred sea dumpings occurred in virtually all of the world’s oceans except the Arctic. Many of the sites have been documented, but others remain unknown. Also unknown are the conditions of canisters, which may be deteriorating after more than fifty years and leaking potentially deadly chemicals into sensitive marine ecosystems. The last inspection was made in 1974, and because of the cost involved, the army says it has no plans to do any more. Since the CWC does not provide a legal basis for actions taken before 1985 or for chemical weapons that remain submerged in the ocean, there is no responsibility or obligation to locate and clean any sites containing toxic chemicals.The secret dumpings, claim many experts, are an ecological and humanitarian time bomb. During the past forty years, mustard bombs have been found along German and Polish beaches, and Danish fisherman have hauled in rusted containers with chemical agents. There is even evidence that during transport, some of the munitions were packaged in wooden crates and thrown overboard en route, where they remained floating away from the intended dumping area. If the canisters were not packaged securely and have begun to shift with the currents and tides, they could also become damaged, which would create a toxic flow with consequences beyond the immediate fish stocks.How long this issue remains unresolved depends on the nations involved in the original dumping and the nations that allowed it to go on along their shores. The question comes down to accountability and the enormous costs involved. Admitting to the secret sea dumps would mean remediation and a massive clean-up effort that would necessarily involve both civilian experts and the military. For the time being, with so many other domestic and global issues, politicians are content to leave that issue to future generations.
Does Russia Have a Secret Chemical Weapon?Standing before an enthusiastic crowd on the outskirts of Moscow, the Russian extremist Vladimir Zhirinovsky proclaimed that his country has a secret weapon capable of destroying the West. At the time, few people knew what this state secret could be. However, based on recent evidence, it is suspected that Zhirinovsky was referring to a class of chemical agents developed since the late 1970s under the collective name Novichok, which means “newcomer.”Following World War II, both the United States and the Soviet Union used German and Japanese research to improve their own chemical weapons programs. However, in an effort to disrupt the Soviet program, the United States began a disinformation campaign to convince the Kremlin that it had achieved far greater chemical weapons successes than it really had, especially in developing a super nerve gas called GJ. Rather than disrupting it, the deception produced the opposite effect.The Soviet Union’s intense efforts to keep up with the West led to the development of several new agents that were not technically banned by the CWC because they were binary (benign when kept separate but lethal when combined). While denouncing U.S. research on binary chemicals, the Soviets were pouring vast resources into developing their own. The agents went by the code names Substance 33, A-230, A-232, A-234, Novichok 5, and Novichok 7. Most of them were at least as toxic as the nerve agent VX and some purportedly ten times as toxic. For instance, A-232 is so lethal that a microscopic amount can kill a person. Vladimir Uglev, the Russian scientist who personally developed A-232, revealed its existence in an interview with the magazine Novoye Vremya in 1994 and admitted that it was specifically developed to circumvent the CWC. If the agents are truly as toxic as suspected, forty thousand tons—an amount not very difficult to produce—would be enough to kill all human life on earth.According to Michael Waller, a senior fellow with the American Foreign Policy Council, Novichok agents can be more toxic than any chemical weapon known, cause diseases like biological agents, and alter human genes, thus causing birth defects and infant disorders for generations. This was corroborated by Vil Mirzayanov, a 26-year veteran of the Soviet chemical weapons program, who spoke out publicly about Novichok and the creation of an entirely new class of deadly binary chemical agents. Mirzayanov was arrested in 1992 for “revealing state secrets.”On May 25, 1994, Mirzayanov, in a Wall Street Journal exposé, blew the lid off the Soviet lie. Safely in the United States, he freely told the Journal how the CWC would actually help, not hinder, Russia’s production of chemical weapons because of loopholes that the Clinton administration ignored. He went on to describe the intensity of research into binary weapons such as Novichok, how they are easily disguised as common agricultural chemicals, and how difficult it would be for inspectors to identify the compounds because the formulas were kept in such secrecy.The most blatant loophole the Russians had taken advantage of is the CWC omission that if a weapon is not “specifically” listed it cannot legally be banned or controlled. Because the West has no idea what these compounds are, Russia is free to continue the secret program and produce as much of these chemicals as they want. According to Mirzayanov, fifteen thousand tons of Substance 33 alone have been manufactured in the city of Novocheboksarsk.To this day, Russia has not officially acknowledged Novichok. When asked about the secret weapon, General Stanislav Petrov, commander of Russia’s radiation, chemical, and biological defenses, has said, “No, it does not exist.” Too many experts who have actually seen it say otherwise, and they worry that the formula in the wrong hands could make nuclear weapons seem irrelevant.But on October 27, 2002, the Russians gave the world a frightening glimpse into how effective and fast acting a chemical attack would be after using a secret gas to end a hostage crisis in which Chechen rebels held more than eight hundred people in a Moscow theater. The unidentified chemical, thought by some experts to have been an experimental opiate, was so potent that Chechen suicide fighters passed out in their chairs before they had a chance to move their fingers and detonate the explosives strapped to their waists. Rescuers entering the theater witnessed some of the victims paralyzed with their mouths agape, others already dead, and still others convulsing or gasping for air and slumping over from asphyxiation. Dr. Andrei Seltsovsky, Moscow’s top physician and chairman of the city’s health committee, reported that all 117 deaths except for two resulted from gas poisoning.When asked specifically about the gas, the Russian government would only say that it was a “special substance.” According to sources, it was developed by the FSB Security Service, successor to the KGB, and so secret that Russian authorities initially refused to provide an antidote for fear of having the substance identified or being accused of violating the CWC. Even Dr. Viktor Fominykh, the Russian president’s chief medical officer, admitted that the substance’s precise composition was kept secret from him. In fact, so closely guarded was the nature of the gas that the Russians were reluctant to transport the injured and dying to other hospitals for fear that outside examiners would alert experts to what the world was beginning to suspect: that Russia’s ongoing chemical weapons program was alive and well and could very well be developing new classes of agents not covered by the CWC.No one is sure if Russia will ever reveal the exact nature of the gas it used. But the loss of more than one hundred lives in a matter of minutes was a stark reminder of just how lethal chemical agents can be. But another grim reality that may have been overlooked is the possibility that the Russian military had used the hostage crisis as a golden opportunity to test the effective use of a supposedly nonlethal weapon. Since the motto of the former Soviet Union, which applies even in today’s modern Russia, is “The state is more important than the individual,” it’s possible that a cold predawn morning on October 27 was the perfect moment to perform a human experiment while rescuing more than eight hundred hostages. Fortunately, most survived the onslaught. More importantly, Russian scientists answered whatever questions they had about a secret chemical that will surely be used again if it benefits the state.
Recently Declassified Chemical Weapons ProgramsIn October 2002, the Pentagon reluctantly admitted to having held open-air chemical tests over naval ships in the Pacific and over land in Alaska, Hawaii, Maryland, and Florida for more than a decade. From 1962 to 1973, the tests were done in order to develop defenses against weapons such as sarin and VX, two of the most deadly nerve agents known to man. According to declassified DOD documents, 150 separate projects were conducted under the code name Project 112, which was directed from the Deseret Test Center in Fort Douglas, Utah.One set of thirty-five trials was conducted near Fort Greely, Alaska between June 7 and December 17, 1965 as part of the Elk Hunt tests, designed to measure the amount of VX nerve agent picked up on the clothing of personnel moving through contaminated areas and minefields, the amount deposited on personnel contacting contaminated vehicles, and the amount of VX vapor rising from VX-contaminated areas. Human subjects wore rubber outfits and M9A1 masks, and afterward were decontaminated with wet steam and high-pressure cold water hosing. Other tests at the Gerstle River test site in Alaska, code-named Devil Hole I and Devil Hole II, involved the release of sarin and VX from rockets and artillery shells filled with the lethal agents.Another 1965 test, code-named Big Tom, involved the spraying of bacteria over Oahu, Hawaii during May and June to simulate a biological attack against an island complex. Bacillus globigii was disseminated from a high-performance aircraft, an Aero spray tank mounted on a U.S. Navy A-4 aircraft, and a Y45-4 spray tank mounted on a U.S. Air Force F-105 aircraft. The next year, from April to June 1966, M138 bomblets filled with BZ were exploded in the Waiakea Forest Reserve southwest of Hilo, Hawaii. BZ is a code name for an ester of benzilic acid, which affects the human mind, rendering contaminated subjects unable to perform an assignment or less able to resist for a short period of time.Open-air tests over navy ships were also part of Project 112. Code-named SHAD (Shipboard Hazard and Defense), the DOD conducted a series of tests to determine the vulnerability of naval ships to chemical and biological agents. The SHAD program was planned and conducted by the U.S. Army’s Deseret Test Center and used live toxins and chemical poisons against U.S. servicemen.In one such test, named Flower Drum, the USS George Eastman (YAG-39) was sprayed with sarin nerve agent, sulfur dioxide, and methylacetoacetate from a gas turbine mounted on the bow of the test ship and by direct injection into the air supply system. The following year, in a test code-named Fearless Johnny, VX nerve agent and diethylphthaline mixed with 0.1 percent fluorescent dye DF-504 were used to measure interior and exterior contamination and to demonstrate the effectiveness of the shipboard water washdown and decontamination systems. The USS George Eastman (YAG-39) was once again the test subject vessel for all the trials, conducted in August and September 1965 off the coast of Honolulu, Hawaii. A second ship, the USS Granville S. Hall (YAG-40), was assigned to Fearless Johnny as an escort and laboratory vessel.Many of the men involved complained of negative health effects at the time and say they’re now suffering from severe medical problems as a result of their exposures. After forty years, the DOD is trying to locate and assist qualified veterans. But here’s the catch. Many of the veterans have already died, and although the Veterans’ Administration (VA) says it will accept information provided on the location, dates, units, ships, and substances involved in the exercises, it also says that it cannot verify the accuracy of that information. In other words, veterans should be prepared to have concrete proof of their involvement or else be given short shrift when applying for disability claims. Veterans who believe they have legitimate claims should contact the VA Health Benefits Service at (877) 222-8287.
The Chemical Industry: Causing More Harm Than Good?Nearly 140 years ago, Lewis Carroll wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland . As one of his characters, he created the Mad Hatter, an English term that also refers to someone who behaves in an irrational, bizarre, or delusional way. What Lewis Carroll did not know when he penned his famous book was that nineteenth-century hat makers would sometimes behave in odd ways because of simple chemical poisoning. Before beaver pelts were sent to England from the United States, they would first be treated with arsenic, lead, or mercury—three elements commonly found in the environment and in many contemporary products. The English hatters would lick the skins to make them soft and pliable as they worked them over, and would consume the toxins, which eventually caused bizarre speech and personality changes.We don’t know how many of today’s physical and mental health problems are the result of chemical exposure, but of the seventy thousand or so chemical products currently on the market, quite a few have been linked to serious health effects. More than three hundred have been designated by the National Institutes of Health as carcinogenic and, according to experts, more people than ever are developing cancers of the lung, bladder, skin, brain, pancreas, and soft tissues as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals. In comparison with men born in the late 1800s, those born in the 1940s have twice the rate of non-smoking-related cancers. Women fare no better. Those born in the 1940s have a 50 percent higher cancer rate, including breast cancer, than women born just eighty years earlier. Overall, from 1950 to 1998, there has been nearly a 60 percent increase in both males and females of all cancer cases.Even the most common chemicals, such as nitrates (the main ingredient in fertilizer and food preservatives), are associated with rising cancer rates. A 1996 National Cancer Institute (NCI) press release warned that dangerous nitrate levels in drinking water, particularly in rural areas, have led to a significant increase in the incidence of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The greatest increases have been in groups that consume the highest levels of nitrates and in farmers who use fertilizers on a regular basis. Biochemical studies in humans have also shown that when nitrates combine with water, they form N-nitroso compounds, many of which are known carcinogens.Because there are two ways to report cancer trends—incidence rates, which refer to the number of age-adjusted cases per 100,000, and death rates per 100,000—there seems to be a disconnect between the positive statements we hear about winning the war against cancer declared by Richard Nixon in 1973 and the fact that cancer incidence rates are higher than ever. Although mortality rates may be lower because of advances in detection and treatment, and despite claims that cancer is on the decline, in most types of cancer we are actually losing the battle and, in some cases, losing it significantly.According to the NCI’s SEER Cancer Statistics, incidence rates for many common cancers have increased dramatically from 1950 to 1998, some by almost 500 percent! The greatest increases have been in breast (63 percent), testicular (125 percent), kidney (130 percent), thyroid (155 percent), liver (180 percent), non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (185 percent), prostate (194 percent), lung (248 percent), and skin melanoma (477 percent). Taken together, even with cancers that have seen a decrease, the overall increase in cancers during the past fifty years has been 60 percent. While the mortality rates may be lower due to better treatments, such a significant rise in cancer incidence is seen by many experts as an indication that something is terribly wrong.The overall increase in cancer rates isn’t simply the result of an aging population or better detection. In the last twenty years, childhood cancer rates have risen by 20 percent, making cancer the second leading cause of death after accidents. Incidence of the most common childhood cancer, leukemia, has increased by about 17 percent in that period, whereas the incidence of brain cancer has risen more than 25 percent. Combined, these two cancers, which have been linked to chemical exposure, account for half of all childhood cancer cases. One study found a strong relationship between brain cancer and chemicals like chlorpyrifos (trade name: Dursban) used against fleas and ticks. Other studies show leukemias and other cancers four times greater when children live near oil refineries, automobile factories, and chemical facilities. In England, it was observed that when children changed addresses, those who succumbed to cancer were more likely to have lived near hazardous facilities before or shortly after birth. Sadly, since chemicals are not tested for effects on fetuses, infants, or children, we simply have no idea whether exposure to even smaller doses than allowed are harmful.Parents themselves may be poisoning their children without realizing it. A recent pesticide study found that residues last much longer than previously thought and may become concentrated at very high levels. For example, after homes were treated with chemicals, residues were present for as long as two weeks on dressers, carpeting, and toys that children put in their mouths. In one home, the concentration was six to twenty-one times higher than the recommended “safe” dose. Because sunlight is important in breaking down pesticide molecules, poisons disbursed indoors settle into materials and do damage for much longer periods.For adults, the chemical revolution that started in the 1940s has had a different effect. Rather than altering normal brain or nerve development and function, many of today’s chemicals attack the reproductive and endocrine systems and disrupt the sensitive balance of hormones that guide virtually every other system in the body. An adult born in the United States who was sampling for chemicals in his or her blood would probably find at least fifty industrial toxins known as endocrine or hormone disruptors. Many of these disruptors have been linked to cancer of the testes, prostate, breast, ovary, and uterus; and because of their accumulation in body fat and other tissues, they can be passed from generation to generation. More frightening is the fact that artificial hormone disruptors, because of “biomagnification” in the food web, are often present in concentrations millions of times higher than are natural hormones.This is not a problem specific to the United States. The increase in global distribution and use of hormone-disrupting chemicals over the past thirty years has caused a disturbing increase in cancer rates throughout the industrialized world. In the United States, testicular cancer has increased by more than 40 percent, in England and Wales by 55 percent, and in Denmark by an astounding 300 percent. Since testicular cancer disproportionately strikes young men, the increase cannot be attributed solely to a rise in the aging population. At the same time cancer rates are increasing, sperm counts since 1960 have been steadily decreasing. In Europe alone, sperm counts have declined at a rate of three million per milliliter per year, with those born most recently having the lowest sperm counts.Taking average sperm counts around the world, scientists have shown a drop of more than 50 percent from about 160 million per milliliter of semen to about 66 million per milliliter—roughly one-third as much sperm as is produced by a hamster. Also coincidental with the increasing use of hormone-disrupting chemicals is the ratio of male to female births, with female births outnumbering male births in many industrial nations. The chemical effect hypothesis is supported by data from Seveso, Italy, where a major dioxin spill resulted in the birth of a total of twelve daughters and no sons to nine couples with the highest dioxin exposures.Hormone-disrupting chemicals also wreak havoc on women’s reproductive organs. Since the chemical revolution that was supposed to make life easier for women who chose to stay at home, breast cancer in the United States has increased by 1 percent per year; in Denmark it has risen by 50 percent since 1945. The United Kingdom has seen significant increases as well. Could this be a matter of inheritance? According to epidemiologists, the increases are too great to be attributed to genetics or aging. As an example, researchers looking at Japanese women who emigrated from Japan, where the prevalence of breast cancer is only one-fifth that of the United States, observed that within a single generation the prevalence of breast cancer among Japanese women had become as high as it was in their new homeland. Today an American woman’s lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is one in eight compared to one in sixteen in 1940.The same chemicals that trigger cancer are also causing girls to enter puberty earlier than in previous years. Two centuries ago, North American women reached puberty at age seventeen. Today it’s closer to twelve. Those five extra years of estrogen exposure create an entirely new set of health issues, since early puberty has been linked to an increase in reproductive problems and cancers later in life. Dr. Patricia Whitten of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia looked at two hundred years of medical records for clues as to what is triggering such early puberty in industrial countries. Her conclusion is that hormone-mimicking chemicals are the culprits and that even though some, such as DDT, have been banned since the early 1970s, they remain everywhere in the environment and are still being used heavily in many areas outside the United States. One recent study found that women with blood DDT levels as low as twenty billionths of a gram per milliliter have a fourfold greater risk of breast cancer than women with levels of two billionths of a gram.One would think, therefore, that the chemicals consumed and used in so many products by so many people would be regulated to at least some degree. In reality, the federal government does not screen chemicals for safety before they go to market, and if they do it’s only after questions have been raised or incidents reported. Of the thousands of pesticides used, for example, only about 150 are formally registered with the EPA, which no doubt explains why hazardous and even deadly products can remain on the market for decades before their dangers are discovered.Even when chemicals are known to be deadly, they continue to find their way into products used every day by millions. As parents watch their children climb the wooden beams of a playground set, they probably have no idea that the pressure-treated lumber used to manufacture the equipment was injected with so much chromate copper arsenate (CCA) that a twelve-foot section contains enough of the poison to kill 250 people. The parent who spends a weekend building a deck for his or her family might not realize that the U.S. wood products industry uses half of all arsenic produced in the world today. According to Renee Sharp, principal author of a report by the Environment Working Group, “In less than two weeks, an average five-year-old playing on an arsenic-treated playset would exceed the lifetime cancer risk considered acceptable under federal pesticide law.”Such contaminants as arsenic in wood products, lead in water, cadmium and manganese in soil, and pesticides in virtually every part of the home and environment could very well account for the behavioral changes in children over the last generation. That statement is based on new research by scientists at Dartmouth College, which shows that toxic pollutants cause people to behave with increased aggressiveness, commit violent crimes, develop learning disabilities, and lose control over impulsive behavior. Recent studies estimate that between 80 percent and 95 percent of females in the United States use pesticides. Tests of indoor air in Jacksonville, Florida showed pesticides in 100 percent of the homes studied. Combined with poverty, social stress, drug abuse, and genetics, chemicals may be the principal ingredients for future social disaster.Roger Masters, one of the Dartmouth researchers, has proposed a controversial idea that he calls the neurotoxicity hypothesis of violent crime. What Masters and his colleagues found is that low-level poisoning by toxic pollutants such as lead is associated with homicide, aggravated and sexual assault, and robbery. When lead uptake occurs at age seven, for instance, it is linked to juvenile delinquency and increased aggression. In one of the largest studies done, which examined behaviors of one thousand black children in Philadelphia, lead was associated with both the number and the seriousness of juvenile offenses.Another pollutant, manganese, was also found to affect brain development. While lead in the brain damages nerve cells associated with inhibition and detoxification, manganese lowers brain levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with impulse control and mood regulation. When serotonin levels decrease as a result of manganese poisoning, there’s an increase in mood swings, aggressive behavior, and impulsiveness. The most widely prescribed antidepressant, Prozac, works by increasing the amount of time serotonin remains in nerve synapses. Chemicals such as manganese could interfere with or even alter the biomechanisms specifically targeted by Prozac.The argument for limiting these kinds of toxins is based on several factors, all of which have a profound effect on brain development and function, especially in children. For example, infants and children absorb up to 50 percent of the lead they ingest, compared with only 8 percent for adults, so that even amounts considered too small to be dangerous for adults can be deadly for children. The highest levels of lead and mercury uptake are reported in groups most likely to commit violent crimes, such as inner-city minority youths. Lead uptake is increased among individuals having diets low in calcium, zinc, and essential vitamins. Since calcium deficiency greatly increases the absorption of manganese, undernourished children are much more severely affected. In poor minority communities, which tend to have a disproportionate number of landfills, chemical manufacturing facilities, and toxic pollutants, black teenaged males consume on average 65 percent less calcium than whites. Alcohol increases the uptake of toxic metals such as lead and manganese. Since the poor consume more alcohol and less calcium, the combination of calcium deficiency, which increases manganese absorption, and alcohol abuse, which increases lead and manganese uptake, is equivalent to living in a toxic waste dump.To test their neurotoxicity hypothesis, the Dartmouth scientists looked at FBI and EPA data for various socioeconomic groups. After controlling for factors that would abnormally skew their results, the group found that counties having the greatest lead, manganese, and alcohol consumption also had violent crime rates three times the national average. In what could turn out to be one of the most significant findings about pollutants and behavior, the Dartmouth study sheds new light on why the chemical industry, whose very survival depends on a continuous and everincreasing supply of chemicals and toxins, is so worried.The government’s answer to the growing problem of dangerous compounds, specifically pesticides, was a 1996 law called the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), which places sharp limits and sometimes bans on the production of a number of these chemicals. In response, the chemical industry took a giant step in protecting itself and getting around EPA safety standards and FQPA regulations by doing what would seem unthinkable: replacing animal with human experimentation. What had been fed for decades to lab rats, mice, and guinea pigs was now, in some cases, actually being fed to human beings.Since the United States has a more restrictive set of guidelines regarding use of human subjects, most of the recent studies have been conducted with paid volunteers in the United Kingdom. For example, Amvac Chemical Corporation of California funded researchers at the Medevel Laboratories in Manchester, England to test dichlorvos, a neurotoxic pesticide used in flea collars and pest strips under the name “No-Pest” and “Doom.” As part of the experiment, adult men were given a mixture of dichlorvos dissolved in corn oil in order to measure acute health effects.In a similar study, the French chemical company Rhone-Poulenc gave thirty-eight men and nine women orange juice laced with the highly toxic insecticide aldicarb. Used mainly on crops such as potatoes and cotton, aldicarb in humans causes nausea, diarrhea, and neurological symptoms. More recently, Inveresk Clinical Research Ltd., an international research laboratory in Scotland, gave human subjects oral doses of azinphosmethyl, a neurotoxic pesticide banned by the EPA because of its health effects in children. In many of these studies, the subjects had experienced adverse physical reactions and the experiments had to be stopped.More recently, Loma Linda University, funded by military contractor Lockheed Martin, conducted the first large-scale human experiment to test the harmful effects of the drinking water contaminant perchlorate, which is one of the toxic components of rocket fuel. Researchers paid one hundred individuals one thousand dollars each to eat perchlorate every day for six months. What was known about perchlorate at the time was that it damages the thyroid, causes cancer, and prevents normal development in fetuses and children. Still, according to the Environmental Working Group, the human subjects were fed up to eighty-three times the safe dose of perchlorate set by the State of California.But why do human experimentation when lab rats are cheap, expendable, and provide a reliable living system for testing chemicals? The answer, for better or worse, is economic incentives. By eliminating the safety factors that are applied when animals are used for testing, companies can legally increase the concentrations of chemicals to be used on crops and added to water and air. To understand how this is accomplished, we have to look at NOAELs and the EPA’s method of determining what is safe and at what dose.The EPA has a long-standing methodology for setting human exposure levels based on animal studies. A two-step safety protocol is implemented. In step one, animals are given incrementally smaller doses of a chemical until a dose with no effect is identified. Once this NOAEL (no observable adverse effect level, or the amount of chemical that could be administered without triggering a biological response) is established, the EPA adds a tenfold “interspecies” safety factor in case humans are more sensitive than the lab animals being tested. In step two, an additional tenfold safety factor is then added in case variations within human species (intraspecies effects) exist that make some individuals, especially children, more sensitive to the chemical than others.Since recent EPA studies have found that some people are ten thousand times more sensitive to certain air pollutants than the average person, regulatory standards are often set at levels a thousand or more times lower than those considered toxic. In essence, the chemical being tested is significantly diluted from the time it enters the animal test stage to the day it’s brought to market. The final concentration is the reference dose (Rf D), defined as the dose of chemical that the most sensitive human can consume safely every day for a lifetime of seventy-five years.Increasingly, however, chemical companies have been eliminating the animal phase and going directly to human testing in order to reduce or eliminate the interspecies uncertainty factor. Their claim is that the NOAEL is too high or not needed and that it keeps some pesticides off the market altogether. By going directly to human testing, the standard tenfold animal safety factor is bypassed in favor of humans being used as the initial lab rats. The new emerging strategy substantially reduces the cost and time of testing while allowing as much as ten times more chemicals on food or in the water.The real victims of this kind of manipulation by chemical companies are not necessarily adults. Since the toxicity of a compound is often much greater for fetuses, infants, and children, and since tissues and organs such as the brain are more vulnerable to toxins at an earlier age, the implications for society are staggering. Pound for pound, children get higher doses of chemicals than adults because they drink seven times as much water per pound, eat four times more food per pound between the ages of one and five years, breathe twice as much air, and have a greater surface area to volume ratio, which makes their bodies absorb chemicals more quickly through their skin. According to the National Research Council (NRC), “exposure to neurotoxic compounds at levels believed to be safe for adults could result in permanent loss of brain function if it occurred during the prenatal or early childhood period of brain development. This information is particularly relevant to dietary exposure to pesticides, since policies that established safe levels of exposure to neurotoxic pesticides for adults could not be assumed to adequately protect a child less than four years of age.”Like adults, children are also the victims of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, but in a different way. They are exposed in the womb during the critical period of development and in early life when their bodies are more vulnerable to absorption of contaminants. Every pregnant woman in the world has endocrine disruptors inside her that attack during narrow windows of fetal development and cause irreversible changes in her child’s brain structure and function, which then leads to behavioral, intellectual, and social abnormalities. Some of these chemicals become toxic only after they go through the liver, and some that are not toxic to the mother may be very toxic to the embryo or fetus.According to the Washington, D.C.–based Environmental Working Group, pesticide companies, farm groups, and food processors claim that there will be an increased reliance on direct human studies in order to avoid the tenfold interspecies uncertainty factor. Currently, six organophosphate insecticides, found to be toxic to brain and nervous tissue, and two carbamate insecticides have been submitted to the EPA for registration and regulation. Both rely on test results from human studies. A review is underway to determine the merits and ramifications of experiments relying solely on adult human tests.One of the best kept secrets that the chemical industry wants desperately to keep from the general public is the danger of chemical mixtures. We know that certain chemicals can be highly toxic by themselves, but no one fully knows the real dangers of multiple exposures because of the cost and impossibility of testing the tens of thousands of chemicals now on the market and the thousand or so new chemicals added each year. To test just one hundred chemicals in combinations of three for a single effect would require more than 150,000 tests. Multiply that by the number of effects or diseases for each organ system and one can see why no one is even suggesting it. The fact is that while testing a chemical individually may not yield a statistically significant effect, mixing it with other chemicals can increase its potency a thousandfold, dramatically intensify its negative effects, and prevent it from ever getting to market.Although there are only about seven hundred different active ingredients (an active ingredient is the chemical in a product that is principally responsible for the effect) in pesticides, in reality these are mixed with each other and with other chemicals to produce the tens of thousands of toxic formulations currently available. Once a “tolerance” level is set (the amount of toxic residue on a crop that a consumer can eat but that can still kill a target pest), the reference dose is set, which is the safe amount that can be eaten directly. The problem is that tolerance levels and reference doses are meaningless when pesticides are not used properly or when they are sprayed illegally in high concentrations. For example, the FDA data show that 25 percent of all peas contain illegal amounts of pesticides. The same has been shown for pears, blackberries, onions, and the apple juice mothers often give to their children because they assume it’s healthier than soda. Furthermore, tolerance levels do not take into account exposure to a range of chemicals, which has the same effect at low levels as exposure to a single chemical at a much higher level.Another well-kept secret is that chemicals are almost never studied for toxic effects at low doses. The rationale here is twofold. First, there’s a common assumption that the higher the dose, the greater the effect. Second, for statistical purposes, higher doses produce better statistical results. The flaw in this strategy is that we are neglecting an entire body of studies showing that low doses of certain chemicals on some organ systems can actually be worse than or have the opposite effect as high doses. For example, the developing brain, nervous system, and endocrine system are especially sensitive to low doses of certain chemicals and hormone disruptors.At this point you may be wondering how a system with so many rules and regulations to prevent fraud and protect citizens can allow this to happen. But it’s exactly because bureaucracies have gotten so large and have had to deal with so many issues and individuals that the whole process is tailor-made for corruption. As an example, let’s look at an investigator’s account of what happened at IBT, a toxicology laboratory responsible for nearly half of all the consumer products, pesticides, and drugs submitted to the EPA and FDA.Adrian Gross, a pathologist for the FDA, was doing what he’d done every day. On his desk in front of him were growing stacks of papers, reports, charts, and results from completed studies waiting to be checked and shuffled over to the next reviewer in the system. Normally, the procedure was routine enough that a quick perusal would have been sufficient. But on that particular day, when Gross examined a rat study of the arthritis drug Naprosyn, his gut told him something was wrong. At first glance, the data and results just didn’t look right, so he decided to dig a little deeper. His initial instincts proved correct because after further review his team of investigators discovered that scientists had faked data by switching around sick and healthy rats or by inventing data for nonexistent rats.“IBT is the worst anyone’s ever seen,” said Dowell Davis, one of the investigators. “They were hell-bent on providing their clients with favorable reports. They didn’t care about good science. It was all about money. They really had what was almost an assembly line for acceptable studies.” Further investigations into other companies’ research found that data were sometimes omitted or simply made up in order to improve statistical significance; and some animal deaths were deliberately ignored in final reports to conceal potential dangers and side effects.A principal testing lab for DuPont and Monsanto, Craven Laboratories of Austin, Texas, committed similar acts. Fifteen of its employees were charged with fraud in 1990 after investigators uncovered phony studies on twenty pesticides. When the EPA’s inspector general later looked into problems with oversight, it found that the agency had audited just 1 percent of the more than two hundred thousand studies done by eight hundred pesticide labs in the United States. Of the studies investigated, many were audited only after the pesticides were on the market.Although this kind of behavior is not pervasive, scientific fraud has been increasing, not only because of the tremendous amount of money involved in research, development, and potential future revenues, but also because scientists themselves fear for job security. Grant renewals are often contingent on positive results. A drug company that awards grants to university scientists, whose jobs often depend solely on grant money, may seek out individuals willing to do what they can to ensure those results. One researcher told me that when he was offered a position at a major midwestern university he was given two years to obtain major outside funding. If he failed to do this, his third year could be spent looking for another job or a new line of work. That kind of stress and pressure to bring money to a research institution, especially on individuals with families to support, can do more to institutionalize scientific fraud than anything else.Some years ago, I personally testified to NIH investigators about what I had witnessed as a researcher at a major medical university. That story, which I include in chapter 7, is revealing in that it illustrates the lengths to which some scientists will go to chase the ever-shrinking piece of the grant pie.Sometimes it’s about money; sometimes it’s about national security or vital national interest. But it’s always about people and how they are affected by governments and organizations that often care little about the consequences of their actions. Chemicals are only the tip of the iceberg. The biological toxins and agents discussed in the next chapter are what experts really fear most.IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE. Copyright © 2003 by Andrew Goliszek. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
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