By Aaron Kesel
Residents living in Newkirk, Oklahoma, and Kansas at the border are worried after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced plans to simulate the effects of biological weapons on buildings just outside their city under the DHS Science & Technology Directorate (S&T) which will conduct a program called the Hazards of Dynamic Outdoor Releases (HODOR). This has spawned protest against the decision, KWCH reported.
In a statement on their website, the DHS said they would be releasing non-hazardous, non-toxic chemicals and biological materials at the Chilocco Indian Agricultural School planned for early next year and then again over the summer.
According to DHS representatives that spoke to CNN, they will be testing the impact on buildings if terrorists were to release a biological weapon.
This has worried residents of Oklahoma and Kansas who are wondering why the DHS is testing biological warfare in their city. KOCO in Oklahoma City reported that several people called their local newsroom saying they are concerned about the safety of people living in the area.
“I just got sick to my stomach. I think if they want to test that stuff let them go down to Los Alamos, you know? I think it’s stupid,” Dennis Jordan told the local news network in a statement.
The study will include low-level outdoor release of inert chemical and biological simulant materials which are “colorless, odorless and non-toxic” according to the DHS.
This has spurred petitions and even protests against the release of the chemicals, evoking memories of past cancerous biological tests on Americans and Canadians conducted by the U.S. government on unknowing residents during the Cold War. During that time the military sprayed dangerous zinc cadmium sulfide over much of the U.S. across several cities including St. Louis and Texas; that project was known as Operation LAC (Large Area Coverage,) Activist Post reported.
In fact, the military has a long history of doing these tests often without any public knowledge.
In a field test called “A Study of the Vulnerability of Subway Passengers in New York City to Covert Attack with Biological Agents,” in 1966 military officials tried to see how easy it would be to unleash biological weapons using the New York City transit system. They would break light bulbs full of non-lethal germs on the tracks to see how they spread throughout the city.
In a 1995 Newsday story, reporter Dennis Duggan contacted retired Army scientist Charles Senseney, who had testified about the experiments to a Senate subcommittee in 1975. In his testimony, he explained that one light bulb full of bacteria dropped at 14th Street easily spread up to at least 58th Street in their tests.
Then there is the test on September 20, 1950, by a U.S. Navy ship just off the coast of San Francisco which used a giant hose to spray a cloud of microbes into the air and into the city’s fog. The military was testing how a biological weapon attack would affect the 800,000 residents of the city.
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Perhaps the most controversial experiment on the population is the release of open pathogens that killed citizens in Florida. In 1979 the Washington Post reported the discussions of open-air experiments in the Tampa Bay area involving the release of pertussis, or whooping cough, in 1955. State records show that whooping cough cases in Florida spiked from 339 (1 death) in 1954 to 1,080 (12 deaths) in 1955, according to the story.
A petition started on Change.org to stop the testing in Oklahoma has nearly 5,000 needed signatures with 4,752 people currently signed protesting the test, as of this report.
“They say it’s enert [sic], but I’m just not comfortable with this for one not much info has been given out or explanation of what exactly will be happening. I think their [sic] should be a town hall meeting over this,” Arkansas City resident Shawn Harhouf wrote on the online petition.
Another concerned citizen, Dee Kolanek, wrote, “I have family in Newkirk and surrounding areas. There are too many questions that need to be addressed by the Dept. of Homeland Security.”
What is being released?
Testing will be conducted through the release of (2) different “non-hazardous, non-toxic” powders. These materials are meant to simulate harmful biological materials as they move from the outdoors into buildings.
The chemicals used are the following according to local news outlet KAKE:
- Inert Particle 1 is titanium dioxide (TiO2), a white odorless, non-hazardous, non-flammable, and non-reactive powder that does not dissolve in water. Titanium dioxide is commonly used in paints, food, cosmetics, and insecticides. As an example, sunscreens containing titanium dioxide are recommended by medical experts to effectively block certain harmful UV rays. Titanium dioxide is not regulated or defined as a toxic or hazardous material.
- Inert Particle 2 is a 90:10% mixture of urea powder with CL Fluorescent Brightener 220. Urea is the main chemical found in human and mammalian urine and is used worldwide as a fertilizer. CL Fluorescent Brightener 220 is a non-hazardous optical brighter found in toothpaste and laundry detergents to make whites appear brighter.
- The Biological Particulate will be a preparation of Bacillus thuringiensis subsp kurstaki (Btk) spores that have been “barcoded”. Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki is a microbe found on plants and in soils everywhere, is non-hazardous to humans, and used widely by farmers nationally to kill specific crop-destroying insects, particularly those employing organic gardening practices. These spores can be purchased for home-use at stores selling gardening supplies, and are considered safer than traditional chemical pesticides. The “barcode” in these materials will allow DHS and our performer to conclusively identify the material we use from any that might occur naturally or be used by a farmer on nearby fields. This material simulates the kind of material that might be used in a bioterrorist attack on U.S. citizens.
For the particle test, the government plans to release titanium dioxide, which it describes as a “white odorless powder that is chemically insoluble in water, nonreactive, nonflammable and nonhazardous.”
For the biological test, the government plans to release spores of insecticide sold under the trade name of Dipel. Dipel is not considered hazardous by the Environmental Protection Agency when handled appropriately, according to the assessment.
Republican U.S. Rep. Ron Estes of Kansas said last Thursday he is “monitoring the situation closely,” Kansas.com reported.
“I have numerous questions regarding this proposed test,” Estes said. “While it’s important for our federal agencies to test their abilities in response to threats, we need to be 100 percent certain this test is safe for the residents of south-central Kansas.”
However, the chemicals are argued safe by the DHS and there are plans for a full evaluation of the study under the National Environmental Policy Act which will be available for review at the DHS’s website after completion of the examination.