Agent Orange Myth
FACT: The chemical weed killing compound tested at Fort Detrick would have been undetectable in the soil after 80 days,” according to a study published in the Botanical Gazette. Further, the article notes that the compound 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) was determined to be relatively non-toxic to man!
FACT: Dow Chemical Corp. (Midland, MI) purified Plant Growth Regulator compounds for Fort Detrick “through the ammonium or alkali metal salt by several recrystallizations from aqueous and alcoholic solutions….”
FACT: Dioxin is a known carcinogen, but it was not a compound of Plant Growth Regulators tested by Camp Detrick Crops Division.
FACT: I confess that my “hackles” have been up since that pseudo-scientists from the Kristen Renee Foundation showed up in Frederick. It rejects facts refuting their argument that Fort Detrick is guilty of murder by toxin.
FACT: Full disclosure on every aspect of biological warfare research and its local environmental impact occurred decades ago – the Army obviously just can’t find it.
One of the Army’s responses to all this palaver has been to hire a contractor to interview former Fort Detrick employees. Questions cover what they may have seen, done or suspect might have been done to contaminate the local environment, especially the 400-acre tract known as Area B.
Numerous documents refute the fallacious arguments heard in forum after forum. In its defense, the Army must continue to abide those who distrust what any government agency has ever done or will do. Critics continue to create science fiction theater with fear as the central player.
I found it interesting that the new community liaison panel was taken aback last week by the safety equipment and practices at U. S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). Their “lying eyes,” I suppose, refuted what they had heard and read from outsiders. There are no rampant germs or labs inhabited by clones of Dr. Frankenstein.
Recall the obvious “awe” of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) group at the start of its oversight visit a couple years ago. They were confounded never having seen the extent to which USAMRIID and Fort Detrick utilize the finest – and even unique – safety equipment and practices. USAMRIID continues to develop the science of safety in the laboratory.
QUESTION: “But what about that awful smell?”
ANSWER: It took some time before the National Cancer Institutes’ contractor, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), agreed to fund and install stack scrubbers (about 1998) on the animal farm’s feed sterilization system. The stench carried from Old Farm to Hood College. It remains another tale from the past.
Distinguished former agricultural scientist Dr. Charles Kingsolver was recently interviewed. His information will add to the knowledge base as Fort Detrick tries to deal with questions whose answers have lain fallow in recent years. Interviews, however, cannot replace extant unclassified documents that examined every facet of the former and present research and found them in good stead.
Former director of science, the late Dr. Riley D. Housewright, was never shy about challenging the post’s response to false allegations of malfeasance. He undoubtedly would have been in the commander’s office, incredulous that this environmental witch hunt could have reached critical mass.
FACT: The 1975 “Demilitarization Study” of Fort Detrick contained allegations in an unsubstantiated attachment regarding improper burial of biological and chemical waste. A distinguished panel of unaffiliated experts determined the allegations were not based on fact.
This hasn’t stopped critics from using the allegations, forgetting the “court” acquitted the Army of all charges.
Such information was readily available at Fort Detrick a decade ago and also has been hermetically sealed in the National Archives at Suitland (now Beltsville/College Park), and the National and Defense Technical Information centers’ repositories.
FACT: The congressionally verified two-volume report, “US Army Activities in the US Biological Warfare Program” revealed that anti-crop agents were sprayed in Bushnell, FL, Granite Peak, CO, Terre Haute, IN, Beaumont, TX and India, NOT Camp Detrick.
Research scientist H. R. DeRose published a peer-reviewed article in the Botanical Gazette, No. 107, June 1946, entitled: Persistence of Some Plant Growth Regulators when Applied to the Soil in Herbicidal Treatments.”
An extract of his article in the unpublished, unclassified “Biological Warfare Research in the United States,” (1946) by Rexmonde Cochrane, reports:
“Since 2,4-D might be used as a soil contaminant as well as a spray against growing crops, studies were made to determine the persistence of the agent in soils and their subsequent effect on crops planted in such soils. 2,4-D was nonpersistent (emphasis added).
“In greenhouse trials, high rates of 2,4-D disappeared in eight weeks as a result of leaching due to rainfall or inactivation. In the field, it did not persist for more than 80 days and … had almost completely disappeared in 68 days….
“A special study was made of 2,4-D to determine its possible toxicity for man. Experimental animals were administed (sic) the compound orally, pareiterally, and by inhalation. It was apparent that 2,4-D is a relatively nontoxic compound (emphasis added) for mice, guinea pigs, rats, rabbits, and monkeys…
“In large doses, 2,4-D is a gastric irritant, but is not lethal… on the basis of the experiment that a 75 kg. man could tolerate a dosage of 15 grams or an oral volume of 28 milligrams of agent…It also appeared that 2,4-D is nontoxic by inhalation and is not readily absorbed by the skin....”