The US Government's Secret Plan To Inject People With Plutonium Explained

In 1993, journalist Eileen Welsome published an expose in The Albuquerque Tribune that would win her the Pulitzer Prize for Journalism and reveal one of the most morally reprehensible atrocities that the U.S. government ever committed against its own people.

Welsome first came across the story in 1987, according to High Country News, when she was working as a junior neighborhood reporter at the newspaper and examining a cache of newly declassified government documents. Welsome discovered that in the mid-1940s, around the tail end of the Manhattan Project and the first detonation of atomic bombs by the U.S. military, plans were made to study the effects of radiation of human beings. 

With so much work going on in the field of radioactivity, it had become a pressing concern as to what the effect would be on the experts who were working with such hazardous materials on a daily basis. "Never before has so large a collection of individuals been exposed to so much radiation," noted Dr. Robert Stone, director of health at the Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory, per the Atomic Heritage Foundation.

Identifying the victims of the U.S. government's radiation tests

As High Country News notes, the existence of the U.S. government's secret radiation tests had first come to light in an article in the Washington D.C. publication Science Trends in 1976, while reports of the experiments that covered up the names of those experimented on appeared in scientific journals as far back as the early 1950s (per Los Alamos Science in 1995, posted by the Los Alamos National Laboratory). But Welsome brought the story to national attention by painstakingly working to find out the scale of the experiments and, more importantly, the identities of many of the victims.

In the first three-part series published in The Albuquerque Tribune, Welsome revealed the names of five of the victims of the plutonium experiments who had all since died, but told their stories through their medical records and testimonies from their friends and family (via High Country News). It appeared that none had been warned that they were part of the life-threatening experiments, and that as well as receiving plutonium injections some had received amputations and multiple tooth extractions.

Experimentation without consent

As Welsome's research continued, in time the journalist began to unveil the horrifying scale of the experiments, which included the poisoning of 829 pregnant women with radioactive material in place of "vitamin cocktails" (per Democracy Now!), and the account of 74 disabled and abandoned boys in a school in Massachusetts, who were dosed with radioactive oatmeal after joining what scientists and the boys' guardians at the school had told them was a "science club" (per Smithsonian Magazine).

None of the hundreds or possibly thousands of victims of the U.S. government's secret radioactivity experiments are ever known to have given their consent to the procedures that were inflicted upon them. And what is even more disturbing, many of these drugs were administered by regular doctors who the victims believed were treating them, physicians who were violating the Hippocratic oath — "I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked" — in the process, as Welsome herself noted (via The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists). 

None of the medical personnel involved in these studies ever blew the whistle on what was happening, while the victims of the experiments endured lifetimes of sickness and ailments. According to Welsome's interview with Democracy Now!, many of the offspring of those experimented upon died of childhood cancer. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists relates that a government report released in 1995 admitted that "wrongs had been committed."