[link to www.vawatchdog.org
Potential Health Effects Among Veterans Involved in Military Chemical Warfare Agent Experiments Conducted from 1955 to 1975.
On June 30, 2006, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) released the first in a series of notification letters to DOD-identified veterans who were exposed to chemical warfare and related agents as test subjects in military experiments. These experiments took place primarily at military facilities in Edgewood, MD, from 1955 to 1975. The letter informs veterans of benefits to which they may be entitled and advises them to discuss any health concerns they may have with their VA health care providers.
b. The United States (U.S.) military has had an active chemical warfare program since World War I that included experiments using “soldier volunteers” to test protective clothing and masks, and the potential impact of chemical warfare agents on military personnel. In earlier experiments concluded by the end of World War II, about 60,000 U.S. service members had been experimentally exposed to mustard and Lewisite blister agents. NOTE: Veterans Health Administration (VHA) policy, historical background and relevant clinical information on the military mustard and Lewisite experiments, is available at: [link to www.va.gov
c. More recently, the focus has been on experiments conducted by DOD with a wide range of newer chemical warfare agents, conducted at the U.S. Army Laboratories, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Edgewood, MD (Edgewood-Aberdeen) and other military facilities, from about 1955 to 1975. Potential long-term health effects among the veterans affected by these experiments are the focus of the current VBA outreach letter writing campaign.
d. The Edgewood-Aberdeen experiments involved at least 6,700 “soldier volunteers” exposed from about 1955 to 1975 to more than 250 different agents. The agents tested involved about half a dozen pharmacological classes, including common approved pharmaceuticals or similar compounds, anticholinesterase nerve agents (e.g., sarin and common organophosphorus (OP) and carbamate pesticides), glycolate anticholinergic agents (e.g., nerve agent antidotes atropine and scopolamine), nerve agent reactivators (e.g., the common OP antidote 2-PAM [2-pyridine aldoxime methyl chloride] and related compounds), psychoactive compounds (e.g., LSD [D-lysergic acid diethylamide] and PCP [phencyclidine]), cannabinoids (related to the active ingredient of marijuana), and irritants (e.g., tear gases). Although records are poor and often incomplete, some veterans were exposed only to placebos such as saline, or other common substances such as alcohol or caffeine.
e. Originally conducted in secret, there is a great deal of information today describing these experiments in open literature, including congressional hearings, media accounts, and reviews and epidemiological studies from scientific organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences and others. Importantly, DOD has declassified many of the details of these experiments that are relevant to benefits claims of the veterans who participated.
f. Although no longer secret, many health care providers are not aware of this history and how these experiments may have affected the health of veteran patients today. This Under Secretary for Health Information Letter is intended to inform health care providers who may see such veterans as patients.