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Human Radiation Experiments
Associated with the
U.S. Department of Energy
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U.S. Department of Energy
Assistant Secretary for Environment, Safety, and Health
Washington, D.C. 20585
July 1995

The Secretary of Energy
Hazel R. O'Leary

Assistant Secretary for Environment, Safety, and Health
Tara O'Toole, M.D., M.P.H.

The Office of Human Radiation Experiments
Ellyn Weiss, Special Counsel and Director

Archives and Research
William G. LeFurgy, Deputy Director
Elly Melamed, Project Coordinator
Roger Anders, Chief Historian
Ann Brower
Alyson Burgess
Tom Fisher
Karoline Gourley
David Harrell
Jean Mansavage
Prita Pillai
Cindy Shindledecker
Michael Yuffee

Outreach and Information Center
Lori Azim, Deputy Director
Sheila Allen
Kwesi Amoa
Jack Buchanan
Joanne Carter
Wanda Davis
James Foster
Vernetta Gaines
Ramona Gray
Tom Hoglund
Leslie Maria
Philip Padgett
Dianne Palmer
Ken Rose
Greg Shaffer
Jean-Cyril Walker
Bob Zielinski

Office Director's Staff
Marisa Caputo, Special Assistant
Rose Hampton

Scientific Review
Darrell Fisher
Shirley Fry

Technical Support
Robert Haddad
Alec Oppenhimer
Paul Stregevsky
Daphne Zweifel


Criteria for Listing Experiments
Basic Categories of Human Radiation Experiments
The Process of Identifying Experiments
Summarizing and Listing Experiments
About This List
List of Experiments

Radiation Terms
Listing of Experiment Titles


IN FEBRUARY 1995,the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Human Radiation Experiments published Human Radiation Experiments: The Department of Energy Roadmap to the Story and the Records ("The DOE Roadmap"). The Roadmap summarized work undertaken at the direction of Secretary of Energy Hazel R. O'Leary to find, declassify, and make publicly available DOE records related to human experimentation. This effort was also a part of Secretary O'Leary's larger openness initiative, which commited the Department to conduct business as openly as possible as well as to provide information needed to assess past agency activities.

This volume is a supplement to the Roadmap, as well as a continuation of the Secretary's openness initiative. Along with methodological and historical descriptions, topical discussions, and records series descriptions, the Roadmap included summaries of approximately 150 human radiation experiments associated with DOE and its predecessors. Those summaries are included here, along with summaries of over 275 additional studies that have since been identified, documented, and confirmed. Taken together, these summaries describe a wide range of activities from the early 1940s through the early 1970s. The intent is to be as inclusive as possible in identifying human radiation research projects associated with the Department and its predecessors.

Many people have contributed to this volume, including those listed on the facing page and a number of the people acknowledged previously in the Roadmap. Particular credit is due Dr. Darrell Fisher, Ph.D., for his research skills and to the staff of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory Archives and Records Management Office, who provided special research services. Elly Melamed, Cindy Shindledecker, Alyson Burgess and Daphne Zweifel provided the outstanding organizational and document management skills that made this publication possible. It has been a privilege and pleasure to work with everyone connected with this important project.

Ellyn Weiss

Ellyn R. Weiss, Special Counsel and Director
Office of Human Radiation Experiments
U.S. Department of Energy
July 1995



THIS DOCUMENT CONTAINS a listing, description, and selected references for documented human radiation experiments sponsored, supported, or performed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) or its predecessors, including the U.S. Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA), the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), the Manhattan Engineer District (MED), and the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD). The list represents work completed by DOE's Office of Human Radiation Experiments (OHRE) through June 1995.

The experiment list is available on the Internet via a Home Page on the World Wide Web ( The Home Page also includes the full text of Human Radiation Experiments: The Department of Energy Roadmap to the Story and the Records (DOE/EH-0445), published in February 1995, to which this publication is a supplement .

This list includes experiments released at Secretary O'Leary's June 1994 press conference, as well as additional studies identified during the 12 months that followed. Cross-references are provided for experiments originally released at the press conference; for experiments released as part of The DOE Roadmap; and for experiments published in the 1986 congressional report entitled American Nuclear Guinea Pigs: Three Decades of Radiation Experiments on U.S. Citizens. An appendix of radiation terms is also provided.

Basic guidance for identifying experiments is contained in Executive Order 12891, issued January 15, 1994, and in a January 19, 1994 White House memorandum entitled "Retrieval and Inventory of Records of Human Radiation Experiments." These authorities define human radiation experiments as:

Experiments on individuals involving intentional exposure to ionizing radiation. This category does not include common and routine clinical practices, such as established diagnosis and treatment methods, involving incidental exposures to ionizing radiation;


Experiments involving intentional environmental releases of radiation that (A) were designed to test human health effects of ionizing radiation; or (B) were designed to test the extent of human exposure to ionizing radiation.

For more information about environmental releases, please see The DOE Roadmap.

Criteria for Listing Experiments

SEVERAL ADDITIONAL CRITERIA were used in compiling the list. First, clear evidence that an experiment took place was required. Given the fragmented and highly disparate nature of the documentation, this was often a challenge. Many documents refer to proposed studies, and in other cases documents provide inconclusive leads that require further research. The experiments listed below have been confirmed through research in primary and secondary sources.

Second, the list is limited to experiments conducted or supported by DOE, its predecessor agencies, or agency contractors. Starting in the late 1940s, hundreds of hospitals and other institutions did work with scores of radionuclides and radioactively labeled compounds. Much of this work involved human radiation experiments. Apart from distributing licenses and isotopes, DOE and its predecessors had no active role in most of these experiments. The agency did, however, operate its own cancer hospitals and other research facilities where human subjects were used in radiation research. Moreover, the agency contracted with universities and other institutions for human radiation research. Such experiments are included.

The third consideration for inclusion on the list was evidence that an experiment involved exposure of human subjects to radiation. Studies involving only human tissue samples were not included. Research involving various drugs, hormones, minerals, or other substances also was not included unless radiation was involved.

In judging whether a procedure was a "common and routine clinical practice," a human radiation experiment included any of the following situations where radiation was administered:

  • without realistic expectation of a benefit to the subject;
  • to test or determine the potential usefulness of a treatment for other individuals;
  • to healthy human subjects; and
  • to an individual to calibrate radiation detection instruments.

Several types of procedures did not fall within the scope of human radiation experiments. These included procedures where

  • workers occupationally exposed to radiation were measured for potential internal or external radiation exposure by routine dosimetry, bioassay, or whole-body counting methods;
  • workers were assayed after accidental internal or external radiation exposures;
  • individuals were treated with chelating agents for removal of accidental or occupational internal contamination;
  • patients were measured for internal radioactivity as part of a legitimate medical, diagnostic or therapeutic process; and preexisting internal deposition of radionuclides were assessed, measured, or studied in ody fluids, excreta, blood, cells, or tissue samples.

Basic Categories of Human Radiation Experiments

THERE ARE SEVERAL common and recurring categories of human radiation experiments:

Tracer studiesinvolved use of radioisotopes as tools to learn more about the properties of other biological compounds, transport pathways, and processes in the body. Tracer studies also involved using isotopes as labeling agents where a drug was labeled with a radioactive isotope, including studies conducted to gain knowledge of the effect of radiation upon humans.

All radionuclide metabolism studies in human subjects were considered as human radiation experiments. These tests involved the study or analysis of radioisotope uptake, retention, and excretion, and were done to learn more about the specific behavior of elements in the body.

Biological effects of radiation were often determined during dose response studies.

Radionuclides were used in diagnostic studies to research human physiological conditions, or to calibrate radiation detectors or imaging systems.

Finally, experimental treatments for disease, cancer perhaps the most prominent, involved the use of various radiations and radioactive materials. Over time, many of these therapies moved from the experimental stage to the routine. The point at which they ceased to be experimental may be difficult to draw with precision. The reviewers have used their best judgment in listing those treatments that appear to have been experimental at the time they were administered. Particularly in the case of the AEC cancer hospitals, the choice has been to be inclusive in listing these treatments.

The Process of Identifying Experiments

SEVERAL STEPS were involved in locating and reviewing documentary evidence related to human radiation experiments. To start, OHRE staff and other personnel searched records with information of potential value. This selective search covered records in work spaces, offices, Federal Records Centers, the U.S. National Archives, and other archival repositories.

When documents were found that might contain information related to human radiation experiments, the documents were copied and provenanced. Provenancing involves noting the location of the original document (site, series, box, and folder). The copies were sent to OHRE through a document processing facility, the Coordination and Information Center (CIC). The CIC numbered and indexed the documents, optically scanned them, and produced copies for distribution to DOE public reading rooms and other interested parties. Copies of the documents were also provided to the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments, which President Clinton established in 1994 to review all human radiation studies sponsored or supported by the Federal government from 1944 to 1974.

About 218,000 document pages are included in this collection. In addition to basic document indexes, sophisticated full-text searching capabilities and full access to the document images are available through the Internet World Wide Web Home Page noted on page 1.

Many varieties of documents reference experiments. These include reports from laboratories or contract correspondence between researchers and agency officials, researcher notes, medical files, experiment protocols and proposals, and research bibliographies. References usually contain fragmentary information, and considerable research in primary and secondary sources is often necessary to verify and describe a specific experiment. This research involved gathering all documents related to a particular experiment and comparing the information with published journal literature. Much of the information on human radiation experiments was published in the open scientific literature.

Summarizing and Listing Experiments

THE EXPERIMENT SUMMARIES provide a concise description of what occurred based on the information that could be found. The focus has been on learning when and where the experiment took place; type and dosage of radiation used; how radiation was administered; why the experiment was conducted; numbers and types of subjects involved; experimental results; and funding sources for the experiment. Each experiment summary is followed by a reference section which lists citations to information sources. In addition, case files have been prepared with information concerning each experiment listed.


IN PREPARING THIS LIST, and in continuing the work to find experiments, a variety of challenges have been encountered. One issue relates to subject populations. With some exceptions, little evidence exists about how researchers chose experimental subjects or what factors went into such decisions. More details are often available about the composition of subject populations, but information in this area is hardly complete.

Another obstacle is dating: references to experiment dates are often incomplete, as some studies were conducted over several years. In many cases, the date given in the experiment summary is an estimated date based on available information.

The use of informed consent-or any degree of consent at all-is also very difficult to document for many experiments dating before the standard requirements issued by the National Institutes of Health in 1974. Contemporaneous professional literature typically does not provide much detail about consent issues, nor do contracts, progress reports, or other information sources.

In addition, it can be difficult to determine the role of the Federal government in some experiments. Studies occurring at AEC research hospitals or other agency facilities have an obvious connection to the Government. Yet experiments done in private hospitals often do not. The AEC provided grants, contracts, and other forms of direct support for human radiation experiments, and examples are included in the list. Funding status, however, is not always clear. To the extent it is available, funding information is included in the experiment summaries.

About This List

THIS LIST IS ARRANGED BY LOCATION and incorporates studies previously published in The DOE Roadmap. These studies are listed first for each location and have retained numbers original assigned to them in The DOE Roadmap. In some cases the descriptions have been revised based on new information, and this is indicated at the end of the summary. In addition to the studies previously published in The DOE Roadmap, more than 275 additional studies have been summarized.

The notation indicates where the newly published summaries begin for each location.

Human radiation experiments took place at a number of DOE sites and laboratories and at the three AEC cancer research hospitals. These include Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, Hanford sites in Washington State, Idaho sites in Idaho, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, Oak Ridge sites in Tennessee, and the University of Chicago's Argonne Cancer Research Hospital in Illinois. The primary focus for the DOE search has been these sites and closely related facilities, which are listed under separate headings. For more information about these DOE sites and the history of their involvement in human radiation experiments, see The DOE Roadmap.

The list also includes some experiments conducted at universities and private hospitals that were supported by DOE and its predecessors. These are listed under the heading Other (OT). Please note that this search has been primarily for experiments that took place prior to 1974, the year in which broadly applicable guidelines for the protection of human research subjects were adopted.

In producing this list, a number of summaries were prepared that did not appear to meet the criteria for final inclusion, i.e., they did not appear to be funded by DOE or its predecessors, or there was no definitive documentation indicating that they actually took place. Although they have not been included in this publication, the documentation and summaries have been retained by OHRE, provided to the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments, and are available for review.

Finally, while this list represents our best effort to identify human subject research performed or sponsored by the Department and its predecessors up to 1974, the passage of time and the state of the agency's historical records preclude any claim of absolute completeness. A wealth of valuable data has been uncovered and is presented here. As indicated above, the experiment list and all primary source documents are available on the Internet. 

For further information please contact the DOE Office of Health, Safety and Security HSS User Support

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