account - clouds of secrecy
hidden secrets - Mike Kenner |
Between 1953 and 1964 top secret
trials were carried out using a chemical concoction of zinc cadmium sulphide to
simulate how a cloud would disperse biological agents.
population in the East of England was sprayed covertly with the poisonous compound
at least 76 times.
Mike Kenner is an "Open Government Campaigner"
who stumbled across the Norwich and Bedford trials, and whose revelations prompted
two Government Inquiries.
This article by Mike Kenner describes how he uncovered
the story using files obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
"During November 1998, the Sunday Telegraph
published an exclusive article by Rob Evans and Andrew Gilligan.
revealed that scientists from the Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment
(CDEE), Porton Down, had in the past, sprayed large parts of the UK with a toxic
chemical compound - Zinc Cadmium sulphide (ZnCds).
it was thought that 12 large-scale experiments had been conducted by CDEE scientists.
My investigations soon revealed that this figure was a vast underestimation..."
"At the time of the article, I was already
involved, as an Open Government campaigner, in calling for the Ministry of Defence
to release more information concerning the 1963-1975 Porton Down public area Biological
Warfare experiments, which had been conducted in my local area - South Dorset.
"After pressure from various MPs and concerned residents, the MOD
eventually announced that they would commission yet another Independent Review,
which would investigate possible adverse health effects caused by the public area
"This was the second Independent Review to be commissioned
by the MOD during the late 1990s.
"The first review, conducted by Professor
Brian Spratt FRS, investigated any possible adverse health effects experienced
by the residents of southern England who were exposed to the massive aerosols
of live bacteria, emitted during the Porton Down Dorset Defence Trials."
Opening up the files
the following years, I used Open Government legislation, such as the Code of Practice
for Access to Government Information, in order to obtain more information about
the ZnCds field trials.
"Initially, it was thought that 12 large-scale
experiments had been conducted by CDEE scientists.
new light - recently released files on spraying|
soon revealed that this figure was a vast underestimation of the true figure.
the time that the Academy of Medical Sciences had been appointed to conduct their
Independent Review (late 1999), the number of known experiments had risen to circa
"Fortunately, examination of each newly declassified Porton scientific
report revealed evidence of yet more ,as yet unknown, ZnCds field trials.
I would make a Code of Practice request to Porton Down and once again more information
would be released.
"By now, the tally of known public area ZnCds experiments
had risen to nearly 100."
Open air spraying
the course of my investigations I inadvertently stumbled across a cache of papers
relating to trials which took place over Norfolk in 1963 and again in 1964.
trials turned out to be the last in this open-air spraying programme and were
themselves unique because they involved the Home Office and the City of Norwich
"On occasion, this newly declassified material has revealed
information which contradicts that which is contained in the independent review.
of secrecy - Inside Out investigates|
"On at least two
occasions, official Porton Down scientific reports have been discovered which
were not even examined by the review.
"The first (Porton Technical
Paper No 794) detailed a number of experiments where radioactive gas and ZnCds
particles were released from AERE Harwell and were tracked for at least 60 kilometres
"The second (Porton Technical Paper No 885), detailed the
numerous (circa 36) ZnCds field trials that were conducted by Porton Down scientists
at Cardington, Bedfordshire, during 1963.
"Even more importantly,
PTP No 885 revealed that the chemical compound used in the 1963 Cardington field
trials (ZnCds) was sprayed by Porton scientists from a moving vehicle.
would have placed local Bedfordshire residents in much closer proximity to the
source of sprayed ZnCds than previous trials, which had sprayed the ZnCds from
"Spraying this material from ground level could have
led to a much higher received dosage of inhaled ZnCds amongst residents living
close to the route of the Porton spray vehicle.
"The fact that such
a large number of potentially hazardous field trials could be overlooked by a
Government appointed Independent Review, and only be discovered by an ordinary
resident using Open Government legislation, proves to me the true worth of the
Freedom of Information Act."
views expressed in this article are those of the author, Mike Kenner.
- Chemical Warfare
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external