Toxic Exposures: Mustard Gas and the Health Consequences of World War II in the United States - Critical Issues in Health and Medicine Series (Paperback)Susan L. Smith (author)
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Toxic Exposures tells the shocking story of how the United States and its allies intentionally subjected thousands of their own servicemen to poison gas as part of their preparation for chemical warfare. In addition, it reveals the racialized dimension of these mustard gas experiments, as scientists tested whether the effects of toxic exposure might vary between Asian, Hispanic, black, and white Americans. Drawing from once-classified American and Canadian government records, military reports, scientists' papers, and veterans' testimony, historian Susan L. Smith explores not only the human cost of this research, but also the environmental degradation caused by ocean dumping of unwanted mustard gas.
As she assesses the poisonous legacy of these chemical warfare experiments, Smith also considers their surprising impact on the origins of chemotherapy as cancer treatment and the development of veterans' rights movements. Toxic Exposures thus traces the scars left when the interests of national security and scientific curiosity battled with medical ethics and human rights.
Publisher: Rutgers University Press
Number of pages: 209
Dimensions: 229 x 152 mm
"[Toxic Exposures] is certainly a detailed, thorough examination of mustard gas, but it is also a tool for examining the long-term societal, environmental, and personal effects of war. There is a 'toxic legacy' to war, and Smith's book expertly addresses this issue... Recommended. All readers."--Choice
"Many remember chemical warfare as something that disappeared along with WWI gas masks, but Smith recovers a more recent history of weaponized poisons developed during WWII. Supported by stunningly thorough research, Toxic Exposures will leave you gasping for air."
--Paul A. Lombardo "author of Three Generations, No Imbeciles "
"Toxic Exposures is compelling and persuasive about the untoward outcomes of military testing. Smith's work is sound and comprehensive, and her scholarship is impeccable."
--Susan E. Lederer "University of Wisconsin-Madison "
Canada supplied much of the mustard gas used in the U.S.-led test program as well as 1,000 bombs, DND records show. Canadian chemical warfare specialists from Suffield, Alta., helped design some of the tests and Canadian pilots took part in the bombing raids. Susan L. Smith, a University of Alberta historian, said Canada was a significant participant in the chemical weapons testing on San Jose Island. "This was an area where Canada indeed punched above its own weight," said Smith, author of a new book called Toxic Exposures, which chronicles mustard-gas use during the Second World War.
During her research, Smith found that scientists conducted racebased chemical warfare experiments on San Jose Island. Scientists monitored how mustard gas affected the skin of Puerto Ricans and Caucasians, during the tests. Other tests in the U.S. focused on blacks and Japanese. Smith noted that all individuals, no matter what their ethnicity, suffered extensively from the mustard-gas exposure.
At one point, the U.S. considered using mustard gas as a method to kill Japanese troops hiding in bunkers and other fortresses on Pacific islands. Tests on San Jose Island were key in those preparations but the Americans decided not to proceed with using the weapons. It will take between six and eight weeks to dispose of the eight weapons, Panamanian officials have said. "Canada has a moral commitment to help clean up the mess it created," Smith added.--David Pugliese "National Post "
"A cautionary tale that should be widely read and discussed."
"Toxic Exposures provides a timely and well-researched contribution, adding additional documentation and context to this fascinating and troubling story."--American Historical Review
"Smith's closing observation bears repeating: 'Surely, the history of the mustard gas experiments during World War II provides a powerful lesson in why such medical experimentation necessitates public scrutiny and public debate.' Toxic Exposures is a welcome reminder of that lesson."--Michigan War Studies
"This well-researched, thought-provoking, and timely study of mustard gas experiments during World War II and after is a welcome addition to the growing scholarly literature on chemical warfare and the health consequences of war. It is of benefit not only to historians of science and medicine, the military, and the environment but to a much wider readership of all who are concerned about the use and morality of chemical weapons."--Isis