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The U.S. Army released the chemical compound zinc cadmium sulfide from airplanes, rooftops, and moving vehicles in 33 urban and rural areas as part of a Cold War program to test the way biological weapons might disperse under different conditions. Zinc cadmium sulfide, a fine fluorescent powder, was chosen because its particles are similar in size to germs used in biological warfare, and because its fluorescence under ultraviolet light made it easy to trace. It is not a biological weapon, nor was it thought at the time to be toxic. But residents in affected cities -- including Minneapolis; St. Louis; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Corpus Christi, Texas; and Fort Wayne, Ind. -- became concerned about possible health effects after details of the tests became widely known in the 1990s.
"After an exhaustive, independent review requested by Congress we have found no evidence that exposure to zinc cadmium sulfide at these levels could cause people to become sick," said committee chair Rogene Henderson, senior scientist, Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, Albuquerque, N.M. "Even when we assume the worst about how this chemical might behave in the lungs, we conclude that people would be at a higher risk simply from living in a typical urban, industrialized area for several days or, in some cases, for months."
"Even when we assume the worst about how this chemical might behave in the lungs, we conclude that people would be at a higher risk simply from living in a typical urban, industrialized area for several days or, in some cases, for months."
Koyama, et al. 2002. [Low dose exposure to cadmium and its health effects (1).
Genotoxicity and carcinogenicity]. Nippon Eiseigaku Zasshi. Vol. 57(3): 547-555.
We reviewed studies on genotoxicity and carcinogenicity of cadmium (Cd). Salmonella typhimurium and Escherichia coli exposed to Cd did not show mutagenicity, whereas cultured mammalian cells exposed to Cd showed mutation, DNA strand breaks, and chromosomal aberrations.
Carcinogenicity tests showed that exposure to Cd increased the occurrence of tumors in testis, lung, prostate, hematopoietic tissues, and injection sites.
On the other hand, recent epidemiologic studies are not supportive of earlier observations on the association between Cd and prostate cancer. The US NIOSH data on a possible association between Cd and lung cancer may need reevaluation.
No studies which show a positive relationship between oral Cd exposure and carcinogenesis have been reported.
All available data suggest that Cd should be reassigned to IARC Group 2A (probably carcinogenic to humans) from the current Group 1.
The public began learning about the army's germ warfare testing in the late 1970s, but new surprises keep bobbing up. For instance, documents obtained in 1994 suggest that tens of millions of Americans may have inhaled the army's test agents. In 1957 and 1958, a cargo plane criss-crossed the country releasing tons of zinc cadmium sulfide. According to one army report, "The test covered the United States from the Rockies to the Atlantic, from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico."