The Cold War's Dirty Secrets; May 1995; Scientific American Magazine; by Beardsley; 1 Page(s)
Over the past year a federal advisory committee has doggedly dragged into public view thousands of government-funded studies in which people were deliberately exposed to radiation. The details, to be released in a report next month, are chilling. Some of the tests--conducted between 1944 and 1974--exposed humans to levels of radioactivity now known to be dangerous, and the number of subjects appears to be far greater than previously realized. It is also coming to light that many patients were not well informed about possible dangers or were deceived outright. Perhaps most distressing of all, the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments has determined that informed consent was required but ignored.
Some of these horror stories have been known for years. At the top of the list are studies conducted at the University of Rochester and elsewhere in which 18 people were injected with plutonium, 17 of them unknowingly. The tests were designed to determine the risks the substance posed to laboratory workers. Although some of the doses were considered lethal at that time, Wright Langham, then at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratories, justified the work by saying the subjects were hopelessly ill. Nevertheless, four of these "doomed" participants survived another 20 years.