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US air force involved in radiation experiments on Inuits

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#393
25/06/1993
Article

(June 25, 1993) According to a report from the US-based TV station CNN, during the 1950s the US Air Force dispensed radioactive iodine to healthy Inuits (Eskimos) in Alaska. The human experiments were carried out by doctors on orders from Air Force officials. The purpose of the experiments were to find out if there were possibilities to increase the resistance of US soldiers to arctic cold.

(393.3835) WISE-Amsterdam - CNN came into possession of docu-ments that say that 102 Inuits received pills containing low-radioactive iodine. After that, the effects of the substance on their thyroid glands were observed. Air Force scientists supposed that the thyroid gland plays an immense role in the Inuits' ability to survive the hard arctic winters without detriment.

According to CNN, Senator Frank Murkowski (Republican), who represents the State of Alaska in the US Congress, is demanding an investigation. Murkowski explained that the documents do not say whether the affected people knew what the Air Force gave them or whether they would have been taken care of.

Kaare Rodahl, the doctor who was at that time responsible for the experi-ments, lives today in Norway. He claims that the tests were absolutely harmless. He insists that the radiation coming from Soviet nuclear weapons testing was likely to be much more intense. Furthermore, he justified himself by adding that in those days, at the peak of the cold war, airplanes carrying nuclear bombs were permanently in the air and the Air Force was anxious about what would happen with a crew in the case of an emergency landing.

Affected Inuits and Indians told the TV station they were cheated. One of them, Bob Ahgook from Anaktuvuk, reported he had believed that the doctors from the US Air Force wanted to study their eating habits. "I cannot remember them informing me about anything", said he. "If I had been fully informed, I might have refused to participate".

Sources:

  • Die Tageszeitung (FRG), 4 May 1993
  • Strahlentelex, (FRG), 3 June 1993

Contact: The Inupiat People of Point Hope Alaska,US, tel: + 1-907-368 2330.