Black residents of the St. Louis Pruitt-Igoe housing complex are pressing for compensation and further health studies over secret government testing that occurred during the Cold War. Congress is currently deliberating possible payments to victims of nuclear contamination in the region.
The Army conducted covert experiments in the 1950s and 1960s, using blowers atop buildings and station wagons to disperse zinc cadmium sulfide, a potential carcinogen, into the air surrounding the predominantly Black housing project. The government maintains the substance was harmless, but former residents like Ben Phillips and Chester Deanes strongly disagree.
Phillips and Deanes, co-founders of PHACTS (Pruitt-Igoe Historical Accounting, Compensation, and Truth Seeking), are advocating for their cause. They believe these clandestine tests may have led to various illnesses and premature deaths among Pruitt-Igoe residents. The recent push for compensation coincides with a broader effort by federal lawmakers to address grievances related to Cold War-era government actions.
A report by The Associated Press exposed that the government and companies responsible for nuclear activities in St. Louis were aware of health risks but often ignored them, sparking Senator Josh Hawley's legislative proposal for compensation expansion. The government released documents in 1994 revealing details of the spraying, and similar experiments took place at nearly three dozen other locations.
Despite the government's assurances that the tests were harmless, Phillips and Deanes assert that earlier health studies were inadequate. They call for comprehensive health studies, soil testing to detect potential radioactive elements, and ultimately, an apology. As discussions continue in Congress, former Pruitt-Igoe residents remain determined to secure recognition and redress for the alleged injustices they endured during this dark chapter of American history.
Link: NBC News