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Army: Cold War Chemical Weapons Testing Posed No Risk to St. Louisans

(via Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain)

Updated at 6:14 a.m. Nov. 3 with statement from Sen. Claire McCaskill. 

A top Army official says that Cold War chemical weapons testing in St. Louis did not pose a health risk to residents in the test areas.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Army sprayed a chemical called zinc cadmium sulfide in low-income areas of St. Louis that were predominantly African American.

In September, Republican Senator Roy Blunt and Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill wrote to the Army asking for more information about the testing, after research by a local sociologist, Lisa Martino-Taylor, suggested it may have included a radioactive component.

In a letter received today [Friday] by Senator Blunt’s office, Assistant Army Secretary Katherine Hammack says the Army has reviewed available data and reports on the spraying, and concludes that it did not put St. Louisans at any risk.

Martino-Taylor is not reassured.

"I saw an awful lot of secrecy and I saw some deception that was involved on the part of the Army in the initial portions of the study, and so I think that to have some understanding as to what really happened in St. Louis, we've got to hear from those people also who experienced it," Martino-Taylor said.

In a written statement, a spokesperson for Senator Blunt, Amber Marchand, said the following:

“Senator Blunt still has concerns that this testing was conducted on unsuspecting Missourians. Regardless of the effect, Senator Blunt believes it’s disgraceful to test anything on anyone without their knowledge.”

In a written statement, Senator Claire McCaskill, said the following: 

I'm closely reviewing the Army's response to make sure the Army has been fully transparent and that the scope and quality of their review of this matter was exhaustive. This entire matter of the Army testing chemicals on an unsuspecting community remains disturbing.

Follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter: @KWMUScience

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