– 2/22/11 Fort Detric Used Herbicides

Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011
Fort Detrick used herbicides in small quantities, report states
Chemicals were no stronger than commercial-grade weed killer
by Katherine Heerbrandt | Staff Writer

A report released today affirms previous information that Army scientists used less than 17 pounds of herbicides at Fort Detrick in a 24-year period decades ago, none of it more toxic than commercial-grade weed killer.

Herbicides, the report states, were used in higher quantities on farms across America than on base.

“The point that needs to be made with this is that the tests were done in controlled scientific environments using extremely small quantities on small test plots and in greenhouses of a chemical that the general public throughout the nation had access to and was using in significantly greater quantities,” said Robert Sperling, a spokesman for Fort Detrick.

The report, prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, states that Detrick scientists tested nearly 17 pounds of herbicide over a 24-year period beginning in 1944. Detrick officials said earlier this year that they believed any testing of herbicides, including Agent Orange and others, was done on a small scale at the base.

Fort Detrick commissioned the report in response to public concern about the use of Agent Orange on the base. The Corps of Engineers released similar findings in October, and confirmed that information in the report released today.

“During 1969 alone, the national average for use of the exact same chemical was roughly 1.12 pounds per acre, which equates to more than 8.9 million pounds used nationwide to include farm, lawn care, right-of-way, private property, aquatic area applications,” reads a Detrick statement issued today.

“There is no difference in the compounds used by the military during this time and those that were commercially available.”

The release of the report was announced shortly before a press conference began at Frederick’s Weinberg Center for the Arts this afternoon, during which the Kristen Renee Foundation said it has found a link dioxin found in blood samples of people with cancer to dioxin in soil samples near Fort Detrick.

Sperling said there is no connection in the timing of the release of the report and the press conference held by a group that has threatened to sue Detrick for allegedly causing cancer in people who have lived near the fort.

The foundation asserts that dioxin played a large role in the number and types of cancers reported from residents who lived near the base.

When asked about the veracity of White’s latest findings, Sperling dismissed them. “The veracity of their claims … they are claims,” Sperling said in an e-mail.  “The data about the testing is in the report.”

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