Researcher Shares Findings on Secret Cold War Experiments on St. Louis Residents


Martino-Taylor speaking in Hermann Lounge on Wednesday, Oct. 19. PHOTO BY STEFANIE EGGLESTON.


Dr. Lisa Martino-Taylor, a professor of sociology at St. Louis Community College, shared her findings that poor minorities in St. Louis were one of the targets of government experiments during the Cold War.

Martino-Taylor came to campus last Wednesday at the invitation of Dr. Mark Boulton, associate professor of history.

“Dr. Martino-Taylor is doing the kind of work to which we all should aspire — students and faculty alike,” Boulton said. “It is not only groundbreaking, it has enormous implications for issues of social justice and government transparency that afflict us today.”

Martino-Taylor discussed ways the American government researched and used radiological weapons.

“Radiological weapons involve use of radioactive materials as weapons in which to contaminate physical spaces or people through dusts, smokes or other airborne materials that are made to be radioactive,” Martino-Taylor said.

She described tests conducted on hospital patients, developmentally disabled children, pregnant women and the general population of St. Louis, none of whom were aware that they were being administered potentially harmful materials.

In one experiment, children in Walter E. Fernald and Wrentham State Schools were “fed oatmeal laced with radioactive calcium and iron without consent,” according to Martino-Taylor.  Their parents were told it was simply a nutrition study and mandatory to be a part of the school’s Science Club. Quaker Oats willingly participated in this experiment.

Dr. Boulton said he found the fact that Quaker Oats was complicit in poisoning developmentally challenged children in order to test the effects of radiation particularly distressing.

The government was also interested in the use of radioactive smoke or dust that would cause large cities to become uninhabitable. Their top targets were Moscow and Leningrad, so they chose American cities with a similar building structure and population density for simulation studies. St. Louis was one of those cities.

Army officials claimed the tests were a study to conceal cities under a “non-hazardous simulant smokescreen” in the event of an attack.

A powdered material was dispersed throughout the city, which officials would later claim was a harmless zinc-cadmium-sulfide.  However, cadmium is highly toxic and a known carcinogen, or cancer-causing substance.

These tests were performed mostly in low-income and minority neighborhoods in St. Louis, however the very fine powder could have traveled up to 40 miles, ultimately affecting the entire city.

One comment

  • This definitely was a crazy topic. I am so glad Westminster can bring speakers like this to campus because I definitely think this makes us want to learn more and investigate further – it embodies what a liberal arts education should provide us.


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