A team of investigative reporters has discovered that the government sprayed zinc cadmium sulfide on thousands of unsuspecting citizens who lived in a St. Louis housing project during the 1950s and 60s. While the Army admits it added a florescent substance to the compound, whether or not it was radioactive remains a secret.
On the KSDK website, Leisa Zigman quotes sociologist Lisa Martino-Taylor as saying, "The study was secretive for reason. They didn’t have volunteers stepping up and saying yeah, I’ll breathe zinc cadmium sulfide with radioactive particles."
Other cities were targeted as well: The chemical was sprayed in 33 urban and rural areas. Army archive pictures show that in Corpus Christi, Texas in the 1960s, planes dropped the chemical. In St. Louis, the Army put chemical sprayers on buildings and station wagons.
The Cold War cover story was that the Army was testing the way biological weapons might disperse under different conditions, in case of a Russian attack. The Russians were known to be stockpiling these weapons at the time (and we were too).
The National Research Council says that the spraying did not expose residents of the United States and Canada to harmful levels of the chemicals, and there is little information on how zinc cadmium sulfide affects human health, because little testing has been done on animals and there is no existing data available on the humans who were sprayed.
When taken orally, cadmium accumulates in the body, especially in the kidneys and to a much lesser extent in the liver. Scientists are uncertain about what happens when cadmium sulfide is breathed deep into the lungs. Documents uncovered to date indicate the Army never conducted follow-up studies to see whether the compound caused long term health issues.
Zigman quotes Marino-Taylor as saying, "It was pretty shocking. The level of duplicity and secrecy. Clearly they went to great lengths to deceive people." How can we protect ourselves from this sort of thing in the future?
In 1972, after years of crime, poverty, and decline, the government destroyed the St. Louis Pruitt -Igoe housing complex, where the spraying took place.