Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Human Guinea Pigs: Cold War Misconduct Haunts Sensibilities

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Human Guinea Pigs: Cold War Misconduct Haunts Sensibilities

Article excerpt

EVER SINCE THE Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, scientists have been closely watching the city's survivors. It is in effect the world's most exhaustive study of radiation's effects on human beings.

Sitting in his office a few years back, one of the top scientists with Hiroshima's Radiation Effects Research Foundation painted a picture that seemed to be both hard to believe and much more reassuring than any one had reasonably hoped: No horrifying epidemics of cancer or birth defects or other kinds of lingering human damage - yet.

"Of course," the scientist said, "we don't really know if anything will show up in the survivors' children, or even later generations."

It was one of those heart-shrinking moments, when you cringe and think: Oh no, why did he have to say that just now? Because next to me was one of those survivors' children, a handsome young man in his early 20s named Yuichiro.

For two days, Yuichiro had helped me as my interpreter to talk to some survivors and, with great earnestness and energy, shown me Hiroshima's sights: the museum of nightmarish photos, the relics of nuclear-melted pots and burned clothes, the topographic map of the rivers and bridges that had guided the Enola Gay to its target, the skeletal girders of the old labor hall's dome that was ground zero, and the cenotaph memorializing the dead.

His mother had lived through the atomic blast, and all of this was Yuichiro's heritage. His face, which had flashed a continual lightshow of emotions from pride and pleasure to anger and sadness as we'd rambled through his city, had gone blank the moment we walked into the scientist's office. Neither of us ever mentioned what we had heard there, as if it were one thing for either of us to think of Hiroshima as history and quite another to think of it as something still happening to lively, handsome, all-his-life-ahead-him Yuichiro.

Now, thanks to revelations started by Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary, Americans are coming to understand that not even Hiroshima and Nagasaki were good enough laboratories for the study of radiation's effects on human beings. Not a controlled environment. Not a carefully monitored set of dosages, or wide enough range of radioactive material. Not an experiment that easily could be repeated to validate, in the best scientific tradition, the findings. …

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